Directed by Denis Villeneuve, “Arrival” is a film based on Ted Chiang’s “The Story of Your Life.” It stars Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker in the three leading roles. The movie’s plot revolves around an alien invasion but displays far more intelligence than your typical movie in the genre (such as “Independence Day,” “Transformers” or even “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”). Funny enough, the movie relies on something that is often times a weakness in science fiction—the use of language. In other words, the aliens can’t automatically speak perfect English (and in fact never learn how to speak it).
Anyway, the movie begins with twelve alien spaceships arriving on earth in different, seemingly random, locations around the world. The spaceships are called “Shells” by humanity. The U.S. government selects a linguist and a theoretical physicist to join a team entering the shell in Montana. After a couple of attempts, the linguist is able to understand what the aliens are trying to say. She feels the aliens have come in piece, but unfortunately not everyone agrees with her. A mistranslation causes China to declare war on the aliens, and it is implied that Russia, Sudan and Pakistan will soon follow suit. Meanwhile, she is also being tormented by repeated flashbacks of her time with her late child (including the child’s death). This ultimately leads to a twist ending that most will not be able to see coming of their own accord.
Overall, this movie is a thinking man’s science fiction movie. It is an extremely well made movie about language barriers and shows the type of paranoia that people can get due to a lack of understanding. Also, the movie is extremely gripping which isn’t terribly surprising when considering the directors previous work. After “Prisoners,” “Enemy” and “Sicario,” Villeneuve was already establishing himself as one of the best suspense directors out there. And this movie is no different. In addition, the movie is also very well shot. It uses lots of tracking shots which are very well done.
Also, this movie seems to be following a trend in recent blockbuster science fiction films. Normally, even the most acclaimed science fiction blockbusters (such as “Star Wars” and “Avatar”) are more concerned with the spectacle side of science fiction. Intelligent plotting is normally associated with the art house films. But more recently, we’ve had “Interstellar,” “the Martian” and now “Arrival”—each bringing a level of intelligence to mainstream science fiction films that one doesn’t usually get.
Anyway, I advise everyone to go see this movie. Just don’t do not look up the plot online before you do. It’s best that you don’t know that much about the movie before you see it.