Last night, I went to the theater to see Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival and the night before that I watched Terry Gilliam’s Brazil on blu-ray. I do love my sci-fi and both of these are very different approaches to the genre. I’ll talk about Brazil first because I watched it first.
Brazil is a 1985 dystopian science fiction film starring Jonathan Pryce (played the High Sparrow on Game of Thrones), plus a slew of cameos from noted British character actors and – strangely – Robert De Niro. This is a strange film, really bizarre and surreal. If you know any of Terry Gilliam’s other works, like 12 Monkeys and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, then this shares many of the similarities of those films. I think the best things about the Gilliam films I’ve seen thus far are his skills in world building and the whimsical machines which exist in the dystopia.
The actual narrative itself feels somewhat bloated and there’s some ridiculous dream sequences which perhaps drag on for a bit too long. I did really enjoy the film overall and I can’t get the stupid song out of my head that the film is based around. I probably wouldn’t recommend this to your general viewer, but if you like dystopia, sci-fi, Terry Gilliam or just weird stuff from the 80’s then you’ll get a kick out of Brazil.
My feelings were kind of mixed when I went to see Arrival, mainly because I knew the movie had been received well and Denis Villeneuve was a good director (from Sicario and Prisoners), but I can’t stand Amy Adams. Her role as Lois Lane in the new Superman films and whoever she was in American Hustle (which still stands as one of the most overrated movies ever) really put me off her. I don’t know what it is about her, the fact that she seems to play the same character every time, or I just don’t buy her acting. Anyway, I did really like her in this role so maybe I’ll come around.
So Amy Adams plays a linguist who’s haunted by flashbacks of her daughter who died young from some rare disease. Aliens…arrive (see what I did there) and the military sends after language experts to try and communicate with them. It gets a bit silly with the whole China thing, like ‘oh China is irrational and of course will be the first who wants to blow them up’. Then like the rioting and looting and stuff is dumb and the fact that there is always some dumb American soldier who does something rash because he needs to protect his family. Man am I getting sick of that trope.
The whole reason that stuff is dumb is because the Aliens literally do nothing. The ships just sit there, a door opens every 18 hours and they converse with whoever goes in for a bit. Then the world just loses their shit because aliens are here and the government seems to be doing nothing. Apart from those gripes, the film was quite good. Really smart sci-fi, that avoids alot of the dumb action stuff that often bogs down the genre. The film is so like a Christoper Nolan one in it’s structure that to say any more would spoil it.
Overall, would very much recommend Arrival, especially as a debut sci-fi film for the director that will have you thinking long after the credits role.