Then there are those films that are adventure stories that just happen to be set in space or have a futuristic spin in concept or execution and often possess none of the depth of the former camp. Films like Star Wars or Universal Soldier, for instance.
Canadian helmer Denis Villenuve's latest, ARRIVAL, drops onto screens quickly following last years breathtaking cartel-land thriller Sicario, and thankfully, sits squarely in the former camp.
Pitched as 'Independence Day for the thinking man' it has twelve UFOs the size of the Empire State Building, land in random locations across the globe, and mild-mannered university linguist, Dr Louise Banks is recruited by US government agent Colonel Weber (Forrest Whitaker) to aid in the deciphering of the alien language to assess their purpose. Once in the field she is paired with an equally mild-mannered scientist, Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), and together they become the conduit through whom the gap between ET and man is bridged.
For a film in which the topics are as mind-bogglingly huge as potential global disaster and just about every human existential quandary, Villenueve approaches ARRIVAL much like he approached the scorching SICARIO; calmly.
It is a film with gargantuan ideas; time travel, extraterrestrial life, love and loss and it's all played with a exceptionally soft hand. Villeneuve's style is complete control without excess and, frankly, it's riveting.
Foregoing the trend of spectacle over substance, here we're presented with an alien visit, and rather than all-out panic and war-games, it's pared down to the most intimate and introspective of scenarios; a single woman's POV of the entire scenario - It's a master-class lesson in restraint and direction.
It isn't perfect, mind you. Renner has very little to do except look smart, and Forrest Whitaker has his intense look notched up to 11 with nowhere to go. It's a powder-keg with a fuse lit but no explosion. Thankfully, then, Adams internalised movement is affecting enough to bridge the gap for those left in her wake. Villenueve elicits a subtle performance from her as the ordinary woman unravelling one of mankind's greatest questions of whether we're alone in the universe.
And if all this isn't recommendation enough; the direction, the scope, the themes and the performances, then wait until the final reel plays out its conclusion and just see if your brain isn't leaking out your nose.
Sci-fi for adults, done right and one we'll likely be talking about for a good couple of years to come.
You can read Glenn's take on ARRIVAL here.