Arts & Leisure

“Arrival” is a slow-moving vehicle

AMY ADAMS stars in "Arrival," a sci-fi film about mysterious aliens who suddenly appear in the sky.

AMY ADAMS stars in “Arrival,” a sci-fi film about mysterious aliens who suddenly appear in the sky.

By Jim Tortolano

It’s difficult not to like anything done by Amy Adams. She’s sort of a latter-day female Tom Hanks; likable and talented in any role. In the new science fiction film “Arrival,” she is the main attraction in an otherwise unremarkable tale.

LogoforMovieReviewThis story, written by Eric Heisserer and directed by Denis Villenueve, centers around the appearance of a dozen huge extraterrestrial things, which look like vertical jelly beans sliced in half. These “shells” hover ominously over 12 nations, prompting a certain amount of hysteria and speculation.

Enter Louise Banks (Adams) and Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) as a language expert and theoretical physicist, summoned by the U.S. government to try to figure out whether these visitors are friend, foe or something else.

This part of the film plays out against a backdrop of Banks remembering the times – good and sad – with her daughter. Flash back to present day, and she’s proving to be smarter than the rest of the world in figuring out how to communicate with these six-legged E.T.’s.

Here’s where the story starts to go off the rails and lose us. The aliens have traveled ninety jillion miles to Earth with no knowledge of our language, and haven’t even developed something as simple as a white board. Faster-than-light travel, but no translation app on their iPhones? Shame on them.

fairmovielogoThe aliens move as slowly as the film, which had me checking my watch to see how much longer before I could get out of Montana (which is where most of the movie is set) and back to real-life.

Adams is, as usual, affecting and effective, conveying a nice combination of vulnerability and resolve. She’s authentic and you want to stay with this tale, even when it calls for more than the usual sci-fi suspension of disbelief. But as the minutes pass, you start to wonder if maybe the alien astronauts aren’t exactly the varsity, brain-wise.

The special effects are intriguing, and the surprise ending is interesting if not entirely satisfying. This “Arrival” is not exactly dead on arrival … it’s more of a fender-bender that leaves no one seriously hurt, but nobody happy, either.

“Arrival” is rated PG-13 for brief strong language.

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