A 2016 Denis Villeneuve Sci-Fi Thriller Is Spiking On Netflix Right Now

These days Denis Villeneuve is known for his blockbuster sci-fi extravaganzas. But before the almost too-good "Blade Runner 2049" and the spiritual spectacle that was "Dune," there was "Arrival." In 2016, Villeneuve had already made a name for himself outside his native Canada with the excellent "Prisoners" in 2013 and "Sicario" in 2015. But after helming that sobering exploration of the border war, Villeneuve switched things up, taking on a big sci-fi project and proving that he could do the fantastical just as well as he could the dramatic.

Based on "Story of Your Life," Ted Chiang's award-winning short story, "Arrival" is measured, tasteful sci-fi fare, made all the better by Villenueve's arthouse approach and cinematographer Bradford Young's naturalistic frames. Amy Adams stars as linguist Louise Banks, who is tasked with communicating with newly arrived extraterrestrials, whose 12 spaceships are hovering in various locations around the world. Her efforts ultimately help the human race gain a more advanced, non-linear understanding of time, and that's all I'll say to avoid spoilers. The cast also includes Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker, who deliver solid performances to compliment Adams' nuanced portrayal of a woman haunted by grief.

Since "Arrival," we've all been wowed by Villenueve's ongoing sci-fi prowess. Now, as we all await his "Dune: Part 2," Netflix has offered us all the chance to remind ourselves how the director got started on his big-budget odyssey, and viewers are lapping it up.

Finally, a movie worth a revisit

"Arrival," er, arriving on Netflix has proven almost as momentous an event as the heptapod aliens descending upon Earth. According to FlixPatrol, a site that aggregates Netflix viewing data, since landing on the service on September 1, 2023, in the U.S., the film has been steadily climbing the most-watched charts, debuting at number four on September 2, 2023, and hitting number three as of September 5, 2023.

It's a well-deserved resurgence for "Arrival." As far as movies about aliens go, Villenueve's 2016 effort more than earns its place on a list of the best. It currently sits at 94 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and multiple critics hailed it the best movie of the year at the time of release. We here at /Film agreed and similarly praised the movie as brainy sci-fi with a beating heart.

With "Arrival," Villeneuve received his first Academy Award nomination for Best Director. It was well deserved and signaled that the industry had taken note of his talent for directing sci-fi — a talent that would prove invaluable for the genre in the following years as the director basically began his own mini sci-fi renaissance. As such, the film's return to the public consciousness via Netflix is a welcome development, especially considering the streamer often serves up films that deserve to remain stranded in the wake of time's linear progression. Much like the visions of her late daughter that plague the protagonist of "Arrival," these films are thrust into our cortex by the all-powerful algorithm whether we like it or not. 

For once, it's nice to see a movie worthy of being recalled fondly.