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Arrival – Film4

Amy Adams in a hazmat suit holds up a sign which reads 'Human'
(Image credit: © E1 Entertainment/Paramount Pi)

An intelligent and mesmerising alien-invasion drama. 5/5 stars

The antidote to Independence Day, Denis Villeneuve's superb Oscar-nominated sci-fi drama suggests that wonder and humility would be a smarter response than gung-ho bluster if extraterrestrials suddenly turned up on Earth.

That's the attitude taken by Amy Adams' fiercely intelligent linguist heroine Louise Banks after Forest Whitaker's gruff US army intelligence colonel conscripts her to join a team of experts gathered at the site in Montana of an alien spacecraft, one of twelve dotted around the globe. What do they want with us? And how do we find out?

As Louise and scientist colleague Ian (Jeremy Renner), togged out in cumbersome orange hazmat suits, try to communicate with the visitors, Earth's military leaders get dangerously jumpy. With the planet teetering on the brink of disaster, Villeneuve effectively ramps up the tension, but he also supplies awesome images and challenging concepts, while the terrific Adams supplies the movie's heart.

A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.