Some surprisingly good science fiction is watered down by tepid dialogue in The Arrival. In perhaps his best work in years (although that’s not saying much), Charlie Sheen plays Zane Zaminski, a paranoid researcher in the SETI program, searching for life among the stars. One night, he discovers a signal from a distant star that disappears before he can get confirmation. However, when he reveals his discovery to his superior (Ron Silver), it is immediately squashed, and he is fired, and enmeshed into a conspiracy that confirms and feeds off his paranoid fears. The Arrival hearkens back to some of the classic sci-fi films of the 50s, with its overall themes of alien invasion and mankind’s own threat to the planet (though environmentalism has assumed the anti-nuclear spotlight common among the earlier films). The film takes its science fiction seriously, and manages to string together such dissimilar elements as satellite scams, nosy neighbors, evil gardners, the Day of the Dead, Mexican radio stations, power plants, insta-disguise machines, and some sort of strange singularity grenade. Granted, some of the dialogue is bad enough to make you wince, and the bad guys must have attended the James Bond villain seminar for exterminating the good guys (don’t any of the aliens know what a gun is?). Yet the film is surprisingly enjoyable, giving the viewer plenty of thrills, and making Zane’s paranoia seem justified while at the same time making the viewers accept his bizaare and unbelievable point of view.
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