The Arrival (August 3/00)

The question of whether or not we're alone in the universe is a very old one, and is one that has been explored many times over the years. Is it possible to make a movie about aliens coming to earth and having it seem fresh? The Arrival proves that it is indeed.

Charlie Sheen stars as Zane Zaminsky, an astronomer who discovers an unusual signal one day at work. He goes to his boss (Ron Silver) and tells him it's an alien signal. He is quickly sacked. He soon discovers that aliens did send that signal, and (dramatic pause) they're already among us!

As directed by David Twohy, The Arrival is a stylish and fast-paced thriller. With this genre, it's easy to get wrapped up in cliches. But thanks to the intelligent script by Twohy, the movie never sinks into the realm of most straight-to-video fare on this very subject.

Sheen, an actor who generally does not have much range, is great here. As Zaminsky, he projects crazed determination superbly. While this is a character that may have allowed an actor to go way over the top, Sheen keeps Zane grounded. He's the type of character that you have to believe would be reacting the way he does; if any of us were in that situation, would we behave any differently? I know I likely wouldn't be able to keep it together as well as he does.

Another potential problem that could have plagued the film is the way the aliens look. These days, aliens are either cute and cuddly (ET) or mean and deadly (Aliens). But The Arrival finds a good middle-ground, with the aliens appearing humanoid, but distinctly alien as well. The special effects are surprisingly good, too, considering the modest budget.

And as the villian, Ron Silver delivers once again. It's too bad that he's gotten typecast as the bad guy, but he's so good at it it's hard to imagine him as anything else. Although, it is a little hard to believe that someone as smarmy as this guy would become the head of a huge corporation. . .but nevertheless, in a movie like this, if something like that is the most unbelievable part, you're in good shape.

***1/2 out of ****