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With: Charlie Sheen, Teri Polo, Ron Silver, Lindsay Crouse, Richard Schiff, Tony T. Johnson
Written by: David Twohy
Directed by: David Twohy
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sci-fi violence and terror, and for brief language
Running Time: 115
Date: 05/31/1996

The Arrival (1996)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Space Noise

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Having come to the conclusion that David Twohy is one of the finest makers of "B"-style genre movies alive, and just having seen Twohy's Riddick, I thought I'd go back and check out his second directorial effort, The Arrival, which I missed in theaters. (His first directorial effort, alternately titled Timescape and Grand Tour: Disaster in Time is fairly difficult to track down.) Not surprisingly, The Arrival has all the ingredients in place for a silly, but well-made thriller with exactly the right tone.

Charlie Sheen stars as Zane Zaminsky, an astronomer who works monitoring deep space noise, looking for signs of life. He works so much his girlfriend, Char (Teri Polo), is perpetually exasperated with him. Just when he thinks he's found something, he's laid off. And weird things begin happening: his recordings disappear, and his lab partner (Richard Schiff) winds up dead. Zane sets up a makeshift lab and gets some unexpected help from a scrappy neighbor kid called Kiki (Tony T. Johnson). A new signal sends Zane to Mexico, where he meets an environmental scientist, Ilana Green (Lindsay Crouse). They compare notes and come up with some alarming ideas. Everything leads to a big showdown at a huge satellite dish. Ron Silver co-stars as Zane's boss.

Oddly, just like many 1950s sci-fi movies, Twohy gets a message into his movie, a warning about environmental change. And, as with the best of these kinds of movies, it's done with enough subtlety and buried just deep enough in the narrative, that it doesn't feel preachy.

Unlike many other modern makers of sci-fi, Twohy concentrates on his characters first, and even if the movie is sometimes dumb, the characters are always smart. When the first special effects arrive on screen, or better yet, the first really cool-looking set, it feels like a real surprise, and it has been earned. Moreover, a simple scene with some scorpions gets a great deal of suspense out of a very old-fashioned tactic. The director does like his action and chase sequences, too, and while he keeps the proceedings moving at a good pace, his movies still tend to reach the two-hour mark, and his action isn't usually the clearest I've ever seen. But these are small quibbles, when the end result is so enjoyable.

It's impossible to ever take poor Charlie Sheen seriously ever again, and his performance here is a little too wild-eyed and manic, but it works, especially given what Zane has to deal with.

From what I can tell, I don't think The Arrival has much of a cult following here in 2013, but it's good enough -- and still timely enough -- that it really should, especially since sci-fi fans have been given such slim pickings over the past several years.

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