Linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) leads an elite team of investigators when gigantic spaceships touch down in 12 locations around the world. As nations teeter on the verge of global war, Banks and her crew must race against time to find a way to communicate with the extraterrestrial visitors. Hoping to unravel the mystery, she takes a chance that could threaten her life and quite possibly all of mankind.
When I saw the previews for Arrival I was captivated with the look and concept of what this Sci-Fi drama was going to be about. But when I heard Denis Villeneuve was the director. I knew I was in store for a really intense and methodical road ahead. First lets talk about Denis. I was introduced to him when someone suggested I watch the movie “Prisoner”. All the previews and summaries told me this movie was going to be a typical kidnapping of a kidnapper movie that may have a twist or two. This is definitely not what this movie was about. He weaved a psychological ethical dilemma of what you or anyone would do if your child were kidnapped. He presented contrasting couples of what one would do and what the other would. So you stand there wondering which one you would be. Would you make the right decision? Would you go too far? But a signature technique I noticed with his movies is his jump editing technique. Once he established a characters routine. He doesn’t drag you through the whole sequence of events. He also doesn’t need to show you all the graphic details. He jumps to the next scene placing in your mind, You know what just occurred, don’t you? He has done this with his succeeding movies as well. He leaves you wondering, what did I miss or did I really miss something. Overall, his tension building, character developing analysis is so good that by the end of the film. You know who they are, you know why they did it and wonder. What would I have done. His movies that came afterwards Enemy and Sicario are so well made but so different from each other that they actually have an opportunity to stand on their own.
But, back to Arrival. Here’s the interesting thing, I found before I even stepped foot in the theater. I had these questions. Most movies when Aliens arrive have different kinds of scientist to figure out where and how they came to be here (mostly to take over the planet) but this movie wanted to know how, with the help of a linguistic Professor could we talk to them. This new direction told me that the writer and director wanted to use another conceptual way of making contact with these aliens. So the entire effort was to bring together a team of scientist and military experts all around the world to determine what the Aliens were saying or can anything be determined to communicate directly to them. This is where Amy Adams does a great job become this great specialist, leader and professor of linguistics studies. Should would bring clarity to everyone on what they wanted. Movie story line in short. 12 alien spacecraft’s arrive around the world and opens their craft up every 18 hours to let them in to attempt to make some kind of contact. The military as usual are heading this project like it is all over the world. But they come up with squat. Forest Whitaker as Colonel Weber reaches out to professor Louise Banks and tells her they need her help to translate the sounds emitting from a tape recorder in the few minutes that they arrive at her office . Not going to happen, as she clearly states that she has to be there to determine what would need to be translated. They turn their collective nose up but have to return to bring her to Montana to meet the show (aliens).
We move on to a slow but essential learning phase of the film to see that the communication needed from the aliens is not spoken but happens to be written. We go through a few trial and error exercises with Prof. Banks and the other scientist in the movie played by Jeremy Renner. With all that said, there is a second layer of the story that is some how connected to the complete story line. We become privy to Prof. Banks thoughts that may be memories, images or projections. We really aren’t sure, but they pop up all through the movie. We start off with some and a few show up during her encounters with the aliens. Some painful some joyful. We sit back watching, waiting and hoping that they get to a solution before the world attacks these visitors in a military way which is being led by the Chinese in the south pacific. There is an underline feeling of fear that is shown on screen by the American soldiers as well as people around the world. So as this all goes on, the real story is if we feel there is a race against time to come up with a solution. But the whole objective of their arrival which we don’t realize is, time is the solution.
This is a very intelligent metaphysical movie that uses the same technique like hisprevious movies. It takes its time to give you everything you will need during your time watching the movie. But it really takes paying attention and understanding what is being seen as opposed to what it truly means. I’m being very vague with things because its worth finding out what this is all about on your own, but unless I’m a buffoon. I did not see the conclusion and the true meaning of the the story. Credit to Forest Whitaker and the scientist Ian Donnely played by Jeremy Renner. Both injected quality and substance into their roles and into the story line.
A well directed film with a great story line. It is based from a book called, “Story of your life” by Ted Chiang. This film is visually beautiful, but don’t expect to see a big sci-fi Star Wars, close encounter effects in this movie. It is about contact, not physical engagement or military and technical superiority. it is about how we communicate and come to an understanding of what all our needs are individually.
Another great film by Denis Villeneuve and I look forward to his reboot of “Blade Runner”.