"Arrival" is the story of a mysterious spacecraft touchdown across the globe in which an elite team races against time to decipher the aliens' intent. As tensions mount between fearful governments, expert translator Louise Banks (Adams) discovers the aliens' true purpose and, to avert global war, takes a chance that could threaten her life and quite possibly humanity. The film received eight Academy Award® nominations including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Production Design, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Sound Editing. (Gary Reber)
Special features include five featurettes: Xenolinguistics: Understanding Arrival (HD 30:03), Acoustic Signatures: The Sound Design (HD 13:59), Eternal Recurrence: The Score (HD 11:24), Nonlinear Thinking: The Editorial Process (HD 11:20), and Principles Of Time, Memory & Language (HD 15:24) and an UltraViolet digital copy.
The 2.39:1 2160p HEVC/H.265 Ultra HD HDR10 picture, reviewed on a Sony Bravia Z9D 4K Ultra HD HDR display, was photographed digitally using the Arri Alexa XT M & Arri Alexa XT Plus camera systems and sourced from a 2K (not 4K) master Digital Intermediate format. As the 2K Digital Intermediate has been upconverted to 2160p, there is no real gain in native resolution. Picture quality is superb but extremely drab and devoid of significant colors. To fully appreciate the cinematography and lighting design requires a display device with exceptional native contrast capability, as the imagery is rather dark and shadow intensified. Also required is a black or very dark viewing environment. Otherwise, one will not be able to discern the fine shadow delineation. Black levels are deep. The overall picture level is dim with highlights that enhance the sense of spot contrast against an otherwise dimly lit backdrop. There is just enough light to discern fine resolution. Even the opening scenes are in dark, overcast skies and dimly lit interiors. The research campsite mainly is seen during evening hours, again displaying dimly lit interiors contrasted with spot lighting. Such production design intensifies the sense of the unknown and mystery. Remarkably, under such conditions, fleshtones are perceived as being perfectly natural. There are moments of brighter highlights that exhibit vivid colors, such as TV screens and objects. With the picture's HDR enhancement, there is a sense of color nuance and depth, respectful of the movie's intended tone. Some of the brighter exterior scenes, enhanced with HDR encoding, do reveal better resolution in facial features, clothing, uniforms, and object textures. But overall, shadowy imagery is prevalent. The production design and cinematography is first rate and achieves an eerie visual experience. This is a haunting, stylized visual experience that is among the best low-light cinematic productions ever. This is a really enthralling visual experience, though, bleakly styled that will be appreciated when viewed under ideal home theatre conditions. A WOW! segment begins at 00:18:18 and ends at 00:19:54. Another segment is from 01:26:15 to 01:31:57. (Gary Reber)
Unfortunately, the sound elements were not remixed into an Immersive Sound format. Still, as with the Blu-ray Disc release, the DTS-HD Master Audio™ 7.1-channel soundtrack is a tour de force in sound design with sonics that truly are unusual. Deep bass, delivered with intense .1 LFE energy extends to powerful sub-25 Hz frequencies. Only those home theatre systems with truly full-frequency capability will be able to fully resolve the intensity of the low-frequency sonics, from the sounds made by the aliens, to explosions from jet fighters, to military helicopters. Nuanced atmospherics enhance the sense of realism with excellent Foley sound effects. Sound effects are powerfully delivered. The music score is eerie sounding with at times a pounding percussive presence and at other times a string-dominant orchestral presence. The music, atmospherics, and sound effects extend aggressively throughout the soundfield with all channels often fully engaged. The two added surround channels effectively enhance the sense of spatial dimensionality. Dialogue is consistently intelligible, with generally good spatial integration, including main character narration, though, at times dialogue is a bit forward sounding. This is a very effective and dynamic-sounding holosonic® soundtrack that is reference quality and a testament to the critical significance of sound in the viewing experience.
3D AuroMatic Immersive Sound rendering, dramatically expanded the sense of holosonic® spherical surround, delivering an impressive overhead presence and directionality, especially with regard to the numerous segments of flying aircraft. This is the definitive way to experience this superb soundtrack. DTS Neural:X maintains the dynamics but delivers less-convincing overhead impact. And Dolby Surround rolls off the low-frequency impact as well as delivers a far less-convincing overhead impact. (Gary Reber)