Today’s Election Day here in the United States, which means as you read this, there is every chance I am in a voting booth screaming and banging my head against the wall. So, I decided to forgo anything thematic and focus on what appears to be the upcoming weekend’s science fiction masterpiece, The Arrival, and more specifically Denis Villeneueve. He first popped on to my radar with the amazing Incendies, then I am still trying to recover from Prisoners, but for most audiences he went mainstream with last year’s Sicario.
The film, which chronicles US law enforcement’s strange partnership with a wolfish freelancer (Benicio del Toro) in an effort to take down Mexican drug cartels features fantastic performances by del Toro and Emily Blunt (is there any actress as versatile as Blunt?) and Villeneuve’s specialty: tension.
There isn’t a director working today who can build tension slowly to the kind of white-knuckled boil that Villenueve can. He does is so subtly and effortlessly that you don’t realize every muscle in your body is clenched until he springs his trap. There’s an even bigger one in Sicario, but it’s too spoilery and if you haven’t seen his work, this is the most mainstream film to start with if you see The Arrival and want more.
During the course of their war with the cartel, US law enforcement makes an incursion into cartel territory over the border in Mexico. Getting over went just fine……but the trip back was a tense trip that went horribly wrong. Lots of directors could have shot this as a great action scene, but with Villeneueve it was an orchestrated ballet of music and angles and tiny details building to an explosive battle to survive the trip back into the States.