Denis Villeneuve's Arrival makes impact at world premiere in Venice
Sci-fi thriller will have TIFF gala on Sept. 9, then opens wide in November
Quebec filmmaker Denis Villeneuve's Arrival had its world premiere Thursday at the Venice Film Festival, and early reviews are positive.
Based on the 1998 short story Story Of Your Life, the film stars five-time Oscar nominee Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner as part of a team of scientists who seek to communicate with extra-terrestrial visitors in order to avoid disastrous consequences for humans.
The film keeps up a torrid pace for the Montreal native, who since 2009 has helmed Sicario, Enemy, Prisoners, Incendies and Polytechnique.
Villeneuve previously told the Canadian Press in an interview last year that he's been a sci-fi fan for life and the project made for a natural progression in his work.
"It's been a while that I've been looking for a project that would allow me to go into that genre," he told CP. "But [Arrival] is a very different project than Prisoners or Sicario — it deals with more light than shadows. After I made five movies back-to-back that were dealing with darkness I needed a break."
Early reviewers seem to be noticing the shadows more than the light, with an overall enthusiastic response to the film.
Robbie Collin of The Telegraph says the film "vividly conjures a sense of sickening, multi-tiered panic" around star Adams, assisted by Jóhann Jóhannsson's score and the cinematography (various locations in Quebec stand in for Montana). Collin says Arrival also gives viewers a lot of ideas to unpack after the lights go up.
The Hollwyood Reporter's David Rooney opined, "How refreshing to watch an alien contact movie in which no cities are destroyed or monuments toppled, and no adversarial squabbling distracts the human team from the challenges of their complex interspecies encounter."
Owen Gleibermann of Variety calls it "a drama of elegantly hushed and heightened anticipation that Villeneuve stages with maximum cunning," though he says the movie sometimes can't escape the large shadow that Steven Spielberg has cast over the genre with titles such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, War of the Worlds and E.T. The final third fails to keep the early momentum and prevents it from being an amazing movie, according to Gleibermann.
Villeneuve is not in Venice due to commitments with his next project — a Blade Runner sequel — but stars Adams and Renner were on hand. The pair previously worked together in American Hustle.
Oscar winner Forrest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man) and Sept-Iles, Que., native Nathaly Thibault are also in the cast.
Arrival, released by Paramount, will have a gala premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 9 and will be in theatres worldwide Nov. 11.