The work of a translator can lead to some interesting situations, but most would agree that it’s quite rare to run into an actual, honest-to-goodness alien. An alien, who for surprisingly obvious but slightly racially dubious reasons, speaks perfect Chinese.
Gaia (Francesca Cuttica) is offered a substantial amount of money to translate Wang’s words in an interrogation lead by Inspector Curti (Ennio Fantastichini), and is taken into a pitch-black room in the centre of Rome. When she asks for the lights to be turned on she sees, sat before her, a roughly human sized grey alien. From there, the story unfolds.
The Arrival of Wang‘s most obvious comparison is with The Day the Earth Stood Still, the latter being more effective in that it doesn’t revolve on a well-rendered and realistic but ultimately not that convincing special effect. Animated aliens as main characters are notoriously difficult to pull off, even with astronomical budgets – the eponymous Paul never worked 100%, and even with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost to interact with and the vocal talens of Seth Rogan, it was still difficult to buy into it completely, and who doesn’t still have nightmares about Jar Jar Binks? Wang himself is a reasonably impressive creation but its presence makes the film seem more lightweight than it would perhaps like to be.
The style of the film is realistic; the performances are naturalistic and the documentary-style cinematography, often using extreme facial close-ups, would suggest that this is supposed to be as realistic a film as possible. This is made difficult by the presence of an animated creature. Personal problems with the rendering of Wang aside, the film is quite tense in places and would, weirdly enough, make a very entertaining theatre piece; the main body of the film is made up of interrogation sequences, with only three characters, which would lend itself well to the stage or radio.
The director duo Antonio and Marco Manetti did a great job with the screenplay, and any strength that the film has is based on this. It runs like an extended episode of The X Files, Fringe, or The Twilight Zone rather than a film but it is an enjoyable, low-key sci-fi drama that knows when and how to ratchet up the tension when it needs to.