The Circle Of Time
Stars: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlberg and Tzi Ma
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Scriptwriter: Eric Heisserer from “Story Of Your Life” by Ted Chiang
Composer: Johann Johannsson
Cinematographer: Bradford Young
Rating: PG 13
Running Length: 117 minutes
The “Arrival” films of twenty years ago starred Charlie Sheen as a person trying to fight aliens that looked something like awkward kangaroos. Actually, the two movies were not that bad and still have their fans. Now, comes “Arrival” with a new author and different storyline. Math people will like it and even if you have trouble balancing your check book, you can follow this film that takes a more laid-back look at objects that materialize in the sky over 12 locations on Earth. Amy Adams (Dr. Louise Banks) stars as a linguist who really has a knack for languages. Her partner in the film is Jeremy Renner (Ian, a theoretical physicist.) They are on the inquisitive side. On the military side (and there always is a military side) is Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) who must live in a helicopter and has his own problems to solve.
Louise is a troubled woman. Her daughter, Hannah, died as a teen from an incurable disease and Louise has flashbacks of her life. Earth life is suddenly disrupted by the appearance of 12 egg-shaped ships that appear suspended above locations around the world. What? Who? Why? The military in the midst of this---and Louise---as they seek her help in trying to communicate with the aliens. Along comes Ian as Louise’s partner, and they figure out a language pattern (circles with markings coming from the inner and outer ring). The creatures have many legs and so the process to communicate begins. In the meantime, at the pod sites around the world, other countries aren't so patient (China, for one) and threaten war on the pods and anyone else. As you can guess, time---which is so important here---is running out. The rest of the world is slowly getting violent.
All of this in a quieter tone and what is effective is that the camera rests on the actor’s faces, rather than all the ruckus going on around them. Inpidual thinking here, rather than follow the mob, and soon the inpidual persons begin to see a pattern of communication.
Amy Adams takes on the role of Dr. Banks with quiet determination. She is always the smartest one in the room and Ian seems to know this, too. Adams facial expressions and quiet, almost whispery voice go along with her thinking, which is quiet and thorough. When she decides to take a chance in a different way of communication, she goes ahead without asking. Jeremy Renner’s Ian always seems to take a step back from Amy. The rest of the military go about their military ways (suspect everyone and everything), and this includes Forest Whitaker as the Colonel in charge, who sometimes shows a sympathetic side. There are surprises here, too. In contrast to other "alien visitor" films with fireworks all around, "Arrival" is almost subdued, reflective and Whitaker doesn't raise his voice. A first for a military person.
The special effects are fine and are on Earth, so no need for space rocks floating by. What I liked about the film is the low-key approach to everything. Something new is there---try to solve the problem---no hysterics (such as lingering good-bye scenes), just go for it---and with a quiet emotion that floats through the film almost unnoticeable. No "X-Files" here.
Copyright 2016 Marie Asner