Denis Villeneuve, who specializes in well-reviewed/award-winning quiet disappointments (hey, he’s Canadian), tries for hushed gravitas & scary wonderment in this Alien Encounter story. Somber, sobersided, shamelessly bookended with funereal beats of a daughter lost to some unnamed incurable disease, it begs to be taken seriously. But beyond the up-to-date technical rigging, it’s just the latest mash-up of CLOSE ENCOUNTERS; DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL and that TWILIGHT ZONE fave: TO SERVE MAN, sans wit, wisdom or reason, laid out in stately fashion with a murky palette. You know the deal before the film starts: giant spaceships park around the planet; hoi polloi in fear & awe; deep-think scientists assume goodwill & humanist/liberal leanings; hard-ass military types certain of alien pretext to war or colonization. Heck, we even go all Cold War with China & Russia threatening belligerent action unaware the visit is meant to bring communication & harmony to an increasingly unsettled world. The irony! All while beautiful brainy linguist Amy Adams, hoping for more examples of 'speech' from the beings, doffs her spacesuit, braving the spaceship atmosphere for closer contact . . . and a decent camera angle for her upturned nose. So too physicist/partner Jeremy Renner . . . but without the adorable nose. And why not, he’s given nothing else to do other than come up with cute names for the intergalactic beastie boys. (Abbott & Costello. No kiddin’, that’s what he comes up with.) Let the translation begin! Rosetta Stone? We don’t need no stinking Rosetta Stone! (The sole bit of humor comes when alien communication smoke rings suddenly appear on screen bearing subtitles, tasteful subtitles.) Someone called this the best Sci-Fi pic since CONTACT/’97. A comment tough to top.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: While there’s nothing quite as momentous as having to remember the phrase ‘Klaatu Barada Nikto,’ like Patricia Neal in DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL/’51, Amy Adams does try for similar narrative drive with ‘Non-zero sum game.’ Not quite as catchy. Anyway, isn't symbiotic the word she's looking for?
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Any film mentioned above but CONTACT.