“Arrival,” the alien movie starring Amy Adams, walked away from Sunday night’s Academy Awards with a win for best sound editing. Such an award had never entered our consciousness until we realized, Hey, that movie really does have an important soundtrack.
In fact, sound editor Sylvain Bellemare’s choices create the ambience for what is an eerie, often sad, sometimes funny movie about aliens’ unexpected arrival on earth.
Adams plays Louise Banks, a world-renowned linguistics professor who is tapped to translate an unknown alien language when extraterrestrials arrive on Earth in 12 different pods from Montana to Nigeria to China.
Louise is grappling with the death of her daughter and separation from her husband, so she agrees to the challenge since she figures she has nothing left to lose.
Jeremy Renner (Adams’ costar in “American Hustle,” if you are keeping score on your Hollywood six-degrees-of-separation sheet) plays Ian Donnelly, a scientist tasked with finding out how the pods are able to travel through space and seemingly defy gravity.
The two are forced to enter the unknown and race against the clock as world leaders threaten war if Louise and Ian are unable to decipher the aliens’ desires.
“Arrival” is set up like a typical ET movie but fortunately does not play out like one.
Director Denis Villenueve (“Prisoners,” “Sicario”) cooks up a sci-fi movie that goes from a slow simmer to a boil without guns, alien attacks or F-16’s (although there is one minor explosion).
Bellemare’s sound catches everything from Louise’s nervous breath to the creepy hum of the aliens’ pod with precision.
Louise and Ian are lifted up into the aliens’ pod every 18 hours to talk to the extraterrestrials they’ve named Abbott and Costello.
As they get closer and closer to comprehending the aliens’ language, Louise begins to discover what she thought she knew about time and memory may not be so simple, as she is awoken by vivid dreams of her daughter.
When the U.S. Army prepares to shut down the operation because China and its allies have declared war on the aliens, Louise uses her newfound knowledge to help stop the total destruction of the aliens, who have come with a powerful message.
“Arrival” is an alien movie, yes, but it is more about the healing power of memory and the importance of humanity.