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Oscars 2017 Review: Arrival (2016)






Director: Denis Villeneuve

Writers: Eric Heisserer (screenplay)

Stars: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker



Directing his first movie since 2015’s Sicario and just before he starts work on the eagerly anticipated Bladerunner sequel, Denis Villeneuve is a busy man. There is also the 2017 Oscars ceremony that I am sure he will be attending to see if his latest work, Arrival will pick up the award for Best Picture or even a Best Director gong for himself.

Villeneuve directs the Eric Heisserer penned movie in which 12 spacecraft mysteriously appear overnight in different locations all over the world. The government enlist the help of skilled linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) to help find out what these beings from another world want exactly and she is instructed to decipher their code of dialogue and communication to translate for them. The movie is segmented with varying flashbacks of Banks with her daughter throughout the early stages of her life and into her teenage years where an illness takes her life. This new revelation becomes a distraction to her and one that she probably needs.

Banks works alongside a team of scientists to enter one of the many pods and attempt to communicate with these lifeforms, but with time comes panic and despite keeping in constant contact with the heads of other countries, the fear of whether the visit is a threat becomes too much and matters are taken out of their hands.

Arrival begins life as a quiet piece of work. It is slow paced to begin with as the story of Banks’ character and the visit is told. It has a tranquil beauty to it with moments of glory and visual wonder, particularly during the scene when the team first enter one of the pods. From there, the pace remains the same for the majority of the movie and what began as an encouraging way of telling the tale actually becomes its downfall. Despite the movie’s ending offering us a twist, it lacked somehow in idea or originality. Nothing can be taken away from the performances, particularly that of Amy Adams which surprisingly didn’t earn her a nomination for Best Actress. The movie begins to slow as the plot and storyline fades out. The expectation of a grand finale falls on a twist in the plotline which bears no real relevance to the ending and is almost placed there just to somehow make it different. The expectation of action or a quickening of pace is soon gone as the climax of the movie somehow leaves us disappointed and short changed.

There are positives in the direction and the acting of some of Hollywood’s leading players. Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker add weight to the casting, but there is no getting away from the fact that it’s a storyline with potential that ultimately fizzles out as the film is extinguished.








Review: Taken 3 (2014)


Stars: Liam Neeson, Forest Whitaker, Maggie Grace

Everybody’s heroic – ex CIA father, Bryan Mills is back and this time he is the target.

Taken 3 continues the story so far in the third and final movie of the trilogy. Bryan’s relationship with ex-wife, Lenore is still healthy, but her relationship with her millionaire husband is not. Lenore takes the opportunity to visit Bryan frequently to talk with him and occasionally reminisce. Stuart discovers her visits with her ex-husband and takes the opportunity to call in on Bryan and ask him not to see her while he is still trying to work things out. Bryan agrees and the two shake hands and separate on good terms. Lenore then contacts Bryan and asks to speak to him. Bryan goes out for Bagels and when he returns to his apartment, Lenore’s lifeless body is left on his bed with her throat cut. The apartment is then surrounded by cops and Bryan is on the run.

Mills then has to use his “particular set of skills” to continue his evasion of the cops and uncover answers surrounding the identity of Lenore’s true murderer. Bryan is able to always be one step ahead of the law, but Detective Franck Dotzler, working on the case, is clever and soon hot on his heels.

Taken 3, or TAK3N as it was referred maybe should have the tagline “Taken: The Money and Run” for it seems the creation of this third movie was purely for financial gain. As a standalone movie it is acceptable. It has everything you would expect from a movie such as this with thrills, action and drama thrown in, but the marketing behind the movie signified that “It Ends Here” rounding up the trilogy, but there was a lot about the movie that didn’t piece together with the other two. The original cast were back with Neeson once again in fine form, but there was no real connection to the first and second movies. The character of Stuart, previously seen in the first movie, was portrayed by a different actor and was confusing to know if it was supposed to be her husband or a new partner conveniently with the same name.

The other downside to the movie was the reduction of the movie’s rating to 12A, presumably to appeal to a wider audience, hence improving the potential of increased earnings. It did take the violence away from the movie with a lot of the fight scenes cut back and the lack of blood in the movie anywhere following any gunshots.

Liam Neeson does what he does best once again with ease. He has made a name for himself as an, without disrespect, older action hero. Famke Janssen returns as ex-wife, Lenore, in a limited role without giving her opportunity to portray her “particular set of acting skills”, Maggie Grace also returns as Bryan’s daughter, Kim, with a different back story to the previous ones. Support in the third movie is strong. Dougray Scott plays the role of Lenore’s partner, Stuart and plays the role well, despite it being unclear as to his actual character’s previous existence in the trilogy. Forest Whitaker comes on board as Franck Dolzer in a solid, impressive performance which is what you come to expect from a man of his stature.

Sadly, it is a disappointing end to the trilogy that has done so well and made a lot of money. Even with the dialogue of the script paying tribute to the original movie, it does have all the action you come to expect from the first two movies, despite being watered down for a younger audience. With loose ends still not tied, or not made clear, it impresses purely as its own movie and not part of the successful trilogy.