It’s a good thing that writer-director David Twohy’s alien invasion movie opened before INDEPENDENCE DAY. Not that it’s bad, but it lacks the kind of spectacle that audiences came to expect from after ID4. In fact, the action scenes even fail to match those of Twohy’s previous writing credits, WATERWORLD, or TERMINAL VELOCITY. This minor caveat aside, the film is actually rather enjoyable — less an alien invasion movie than a conspiracy film (it just hapens to turn out that the conspirators are aliens).
Twohy shows some competence as a director, keeping things moving on at a reasonable clip. Charlie Sheen is likewise in good form, maintaining an increasingly wild-eyed look of paranoia which perfectly matches the unfolding events.
Special effects are sparse but good, particularly an imploding device shown twice during the course of the film, which sucks up everything within its immediate vicinity, like the world’s best vacuum cleaner. Befitting the plot structure, the appearance of the aliens is withheld until late in the film, with a few early hints and glimpses to whet our appetite.
The film’s main strength arises from Twohy’s writing, which manages to maintain decent characterization and dialogue, even when the plot mechanics take over and start driving the characters’ actions. Unfortunately, even this strength fails Twohy at the conclusion, when he calls upon Sheen to deliver one of those “Why didn’t you ask for our help instead of invading us?” speeches better suited to bad 1950s sci-fi flick.
THE ARRIVAL(1996). Directed by David Twohy. Orion Pictures
5/96. approx. 109 mins. PG-13. With: Charlie Sheen, Ron Silver, Lindsay Crouse,Teri Polo.
Copyright 1996 Steve Biodrowski. This review originally appeared in Cinefantasituqe magazine.