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Movie Reviews: Allied and Arrival

Allied

Cary, NC – Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Cast Away) directs Academy Award winners Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard (Inception, The Dark Knight Rises) in Allied, a WWII thriller with Pitt and Cotillard as a husband and wife spy team whose relationship is tested by the war. Zemeckis puts together some thrilling action sequences amidst the intrigue, and during some of the slower parts of the film the director is greatly aided by the amazing chemistry of stars Pitt and Cotillard.

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Two Leads Have Excellent Chemistry

This is Pitt’s third WWII flick in seven years, following Inglorious Basterds and Fury, and there is something about the actor that makes sense in that time period. Allied is by far the most thoughtful of the three, even with its numerous action scenes. The film is primarily focused on whether or not Pitt’s character’s wife, played by Cotillard, is a double agent. The pair work extremely well together, with Cotillard in particular excellent at conveying a sense of mystery. Both parties are master spies, so there is a lot of fun in watching these two potentially outsmart each other.

Loses Focus At Times, But Still Entertains

Zemeckis has always been a technical marvel, leading the forefront in special effects with films like The Walk, Death Becomes Her and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Here, Zemeckis uses that skill as more of a background but the result leads to some truly exciting moments.

I must admit though, there are some moments where Zemeckis seems to lose focus a little bit, and the films drags in certain parts because of it. Moments where Pitt is investigating Cotillard in particular seem to be slightly less interesting than they could be. But as I mentioned, the two stars pick up that slack a bit, adding some much needed tension to those moments to help keep you engaged.

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Worth Seeing

Overall though, Allied is a slick and entertaining thriller that benefits greatly from its lead performances. Definitely worth the price of admission!


Arrival

Cary, NC – One of the most thought-provoking movies of the year, Arrival manages to successfully blend big-budget alien effects, complex emotional questions and serious scientific problem-solving.

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Lots To Think About

Arrival has a deceptively straight-forward story: aliens land all around Earth and various nations and scientists have to figure out a way to communicate with them. But if you have seen a movie by director Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Enemy, Prisoners), then you’ll know it’s never that simple. It’s not a calm, methodical process as political instability and fear breaks out planet-wide, forcing a race against the clock to learn why exactly these aliens are here.

The film takes careful steps to look at the science of language and figure out how we would actually try and communicate with a new species, to the point that linguists have praised Arrival‘s accuracy in many parts. To this effect, Arrival moves slowly and methodically, which can leave more impatient filmgoers irritated.

But through the discussion of the mechanics of language, the movie also asks a larger question of how our languages shape us. Does a person who speaks English view the world differently than someone who speaks Spanish or Russian or, in this case, Heptapod?

The biggest questions come near the end of Arrival when the film takes a very abrupt turn. It is hard to discuss without spoiling anything but the twist adds a level of raw emotion that was unexpected but feels very tangible and, frankly, poses a difficult question. This is a make-or-break moment for the movie that will either leave you in awe of the film’s wit and beauty or feel confused and cheated.

One Key Performance

In a movie about humans scrambling around to deal with aliens, there’s going to be a large cast of characters, even if they aren’t flying jets and shooting rockets. Our lead performance is by Amy Adams (American Hustle, The Fighter) as the American (or possibly Canadian, it’s not clear) linguist who is tasked with translating and communicating with the alien Heptapods. She does a tremendous job, portraying a confident but frustrated scientist who continuously deals with emotional trauma that she doesn’t fully understand.

None of the other performances reach Adams’ level but it is not because they are poorly done. The two other key roles are Jeremy Renner (The Avengers series, The Hurt Locker) as a physicist partnered with Adams and Forest Whitaker (Ghost Dog, The Last King of Scotland) as an Army colonel overseeing the mission.

Both do a great job and have their own little quirks and flourishes of personality but ultimately don’t do much in the movie. Whitaker’s colonel gets us from one point to the next and Renner’s physicist is part of a few key moments but neither are as crucial to the story as Adams, and when they are important, it’s not a scene-grabbing event. But Adams and the intricate story around them more than carry the weight of the movie.

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Worth Seeing

Arrival is rare: a thoughtful science-fiction movie that gets to be released onto the big screen nowadays. It combines real scientific theories with plausible fiction and a powerful emotional core. While the ending twist may not appeal to everyone, it is still a fascinating film and one with a hopeful message about humanity.


Jordan Hunt reviews movies for CaryCitizen. Read more Movie Reviews. Photos from Facebook (Allied/Arrival).

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