As all great science fiction does, the film forces its audience to reflect on its themes through the prism of our own world, and does so with resounding reverence. The universal power of language and its impact on our ability to relate and empathize with those with whom we disagree is an important note to strike in today’s fractured geopolitical climate, and the film’s uplifting attitude towards such a concept is refreshing. The characters in this film (the ones we like, at least) don’t react to this extraordinary circumstance out of fear or ignorance, but out of a desire to learn from, to understand, and to engage with their new cohabitants; what this approach says about our real-world relations to those with differing points of view both at home and throughout the world may sound exhaustively preachy, but the film handles these themes with subtlety and grace.
The film’s pacing can feel tediously slow and deliberate at times, which may present difficulties for those expecting a more action-driven “alien arrival” story; think less the terrible “The Day the Earth Stood Still” remake, more the tremendous “The Day the Earth Stood Still” original. However, there’s still plenty of audio-visual first-rate filmmaking to marvel at here – from the special effects, cinematography, set design, sound design, etc., it’s all outstanding. Amy Adams, shaping up to be one of the most accomplished actors of her generation, is equally impressive, as is much of the cast (I’m still not quite sure what Forest Whitaker was going for, however). This is as genuine, thought-provoking, and well-crafted a film within the sci-fi genre as you’re going to get, worthy of many Oscar nominations and “Best of the Year” consideration. In today’s trying times, it’s worth a watch from just about everyone.
Rating: **** 1/2