Genre: Science Fiction
Directed by David Twohy
Starring Charlie Sheen, Teri Polo, and Ron Silver
No, not the movie where Amy Adams speaks ubbi dubbi with space octopuses. I’m talking about the “The Arrival” — the sci-fi movie starring Charlie Sheen and a bunch of backwards-knee-bending aliens. Why is it good? A lot of reasons, but one to point out is that it leverages reality as a foundation for a fantasy story. Climate change is the hot topic today, so to see a movie from 1996 that attributes global warming to terraforming-aliens automatically makes the plot one that you can envision as feasible. That’s what good cinema does, it makes you believe. It makes you ask "what if?"
Charlie Sheen plays Zane Zaminksy, a scientist obsessively scanning the stars for the SETI Institute (the same SETI that serves as the backbone of the movie Contact). Not a shocker, he hears a signal and the plot kicks off. His boss, Phil Gordian (played by Ron Silver), rewards the discovery by questioning its validity, but offering to get a recording of the signal analyzed. He then apologetically hands Zane a pink slip as a result of a preplanned layoff. As Zane walks out of the door, Phil crushes the cassette in his hand. This is when you crack a smile, sit back, and buckle yourself in for what you already know will be a fun conspiracy.
The movie plays out with characters you can’t trust, danger around every corner, and cliché suspense that works because its so darn fun. It's a movie made by people who appreciate the playbook Alfred Hitchcock left behind. It’s how a lot of Hollywood movies played out before the mighty MCU (like Thanos) snapped its finger and erased an industry. I miss this kind of movie and anyone who watches it will feel nostalgic for real storytelling too.