At the weekend we watched Arrival. It has been on my list of films to see and happened to be on TV. A really thought provoking film and for me the kind of storytelling when sci-fi is at its best. I will now have to read the novella it is based on - Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang.

Funnily, I was thinking about Bladerunner 2049 - another of Denis Villeneuve’s films, after reading Colin Walker’s post about watching it on his phone. I have yet to see it, having hesitated to do so after watching Sicario for which my expecations were high. Yet another of Villeneuve’s films, I had heard great things about Sicario but was disappointed with it. Great set pieces and music, but I thought Emily Blunt’s character lacked agency, rendering her a mere observer. Maybe that was the point but it didn’t work for me (yes, I know she was there as an FBI agent in order to legitimise the operation etc).

Bladerunner holds a special place in my imagination - any sequel has to measure up, and based on Sicario and my reaction to it, I haven’t quite got around to watching 2049 yet. However, having now seen Arrival and thought it had some heft to it, I think I can go ahead and watch Bladerunner 2049 with confidence.

This makes me wonder how much it pays to know about a film in advance of viewing it? Obviously you have to have enough information to decide whether it is for you or not. I had Sicario on my list of must see films after hearing Mark Kermode’s review and it was almost like I knew too much about it and his opinion, meaning I had a specific expectation that was ultimately not met.

On the other hand, I knew very little about Arrival and consequently was able to watch it with few preconceptions to get in the way. I just took it as it came and as such was a better viewing experience for it. I will have to watch Sicario again at a later date, and maybe it will work better on a second viewing.

Stephen James

Minding the gaps

© Stephen James 2021

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