Arrival 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
While most authors and filmmakers are writing stories about aliens bringing the end of the world with them, author Ted Chiang decided to go a different route and focus on aliens that arrive on Earth for a different reason. It’s finding that reason that drives ARRIVAL and gives it an intelligence and character driven story that is normally lacking in the run of the mill alien invasion films. ARRIVAL isn’t perfect, but it’s yet another quality sci-film that sits nicely along recent sci-fi films like GRAVITY and INTERSTELLAR.
Amy Adams plays Louise, a linguist professor that has been asked by the government to develop a way to communicate with an alien spacecraft that recently arrived on Earth. Predictably, the politicians are nervous and there’s a growing sense of fear that the aliens are here to invade. But as Louise makes progress communicating with the aliens, she starts to descend further into their language, to the point where she can communicate with them with ease. She’s aided in her efforts by physicist Ian (Renner) and Colonel Weber (Whitaker) and together they race to determine the alien’s true intentions before the world declares war.
Adams delivers a wonderful performance as a determined, yet stressed woman trying to figure out a complex problem that could save the world. The problem with a film like ARRIVAL is getting wrapped up in the gravity of the story and losing site of the humanity, but Adams keeps the film grounded and doesn’t let the audience forget that no matter what else is going down, the fate of the world is in the hands of Louise. Renner and Whitaker do fine with what they had, but the film rests on the capable shoulders of Amy Adams and her performance is one of the reasons ARRIVAL works so well.
My only issue with the film gets into spoilery territory, so consider yourself warned. The movie focuses on understanding language and how that language relates to our sense of time. That creates a sort of non-linear view of time, which is visually depicted through a series of flash-forwards from Louise. The inclusion of these flash-forwards is critical to the film, but it also becomes a source of frustration in that it’s not fully explained and offers up a lot of questions that never go answered. But that’s always the problem with time travel (yes, I know this isn’t time travel, but it has many time travel characteristics); the idea creates more questions than any two hour movie can answer. But if we ignore the common time travel issues, my other complaint is with Louise’s daughter. At a certain point in ARRIVAL, Louise has to make a decision about her daughter and I feel that decision could have been the basis for a movie all on its own. But here it’s almost an afterthought and a sub-theme of the film. I know I’m in the minority here, but I would have preferred they left the daughter out completely. That decision was the one that resonated with me, but it needed more time than the film could give it.
ARRIVAL is a fantastic film and I love that it got a Best Picture nomination. Or maybe I love more that we live in a time where a quality sci-fil film can receive proper critical and commercial acclaim. ARRIVAL isn’t perfect, but it deserves the praise offers a nice take on the alien invasion story.
4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: Before I inserted ARRIVAL into my 4K player, I was expecting this to be a reference quality disc. But I’m not sure why I thought that since this is a very dark film that appears to be intentionally dreary. I have to assume this transfer was taken from the 2.8K source, but I’m not sure. The 4K UHD offers some predictable upgrades in detail, most notably in the early parts of the film, before Louise actually gets to the alien landing site. The HDR comes into play in the very dark scenes, where the shades of black and gray are more noticeable and therefore show more depth in the compound and in the alien ship. ARRIVAL does look great on 4K UHD, but I feel compelled to remind everyone that this was never intended to be a visually stunning film. Because of that, this isn’t a reference quality disc.
Audio: One of the special features talks about how important the sound is in the film and how the specific location of the sound is a key part of the film. So the lack of a Dolby Atmos track is severely disappointing since that’s one of the things Dolby Atmos tracks do so well. The DTS track is fine, but we needed an Atmos track.
This title was reviewed using a Samsung UBD-K8500 with a Sony XBR75X850C TV.
The 4K UHD does not contain any exclusive features, but it does include a Blu-ray of the film, which includes the following special features:
Xenolinguistics: Understanding Arrival (30:00): Although it has a fancy name, this is really a high quality making-of featurette that covers how the film came to be, the original story and the work done to bring the film to life.
Nonlinear Thinking: The Editing Process (11:20): Like the next two featurettes, this one looks a specific process in the film and how it impacts the entire movie. This one focuses on the editing.
Acoustic Signatures: The Sound Design (14:00): This featurette is focused squarely on the sound used in the film and how the specific positioning of the sound impacted the film.
Eternal Recurrence: The Score (11:25): This featurette looks at the score from Johann Johannsson.
Principles of Time, Memory and Language (15:25): Science is fun and this featurette explains various aspects of the film with actual science.