Arrival is a 2016 American science fiction film directed by Denis Villeneuve and written by Eric Heisserer, based on the short story “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang. The film stars Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker with Mark O’Brien & Tzi Ma in supporting roles.
This is not a movie for all but if you are a lover of scifi then you owe it to yourself to go and watch this movie. It’s introspective, deep and very meaningful and it’s about the human experience as well. It’s a sad story on a personal level but it’s also about hope and the better future for humanity at the same time. It’s slow moving and methodical and is devoid of the usual cliches, action oriented scenes and explosions and bluster and glory that comes along with usual aliens arriving on earth type situations.
We see linguistic professor Louise Banks whose daughter dies of a rare form of incurable cancer. 12 large extraterrestrial spacecrafts arrive in our earth’s atmosphere and hover just above 12 different nations across the globe. Louise is asked by US Army Colonel Weber to join a team to find out why they have come. Accompanied by theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly, Louise makes contact with two seven-limbed cephalopod-like aliens, which they call “heptapods”, and Ian nicknames them Abbott and Costello. Louise learns that the aliens have a written language with circular shapes and symbols that are very complicated. As Louise becomes more proficient in the language, learning simple words and phrases, she starts to see images of herself with her daughter. However things get tense when she asks the aliens what they want and the reply is “offer weapon”.
Similar translations (use weapon) are deduced at other sites, leading other nations to close down communications, and some to scramble their military believing the message indicates a threat. However, Louise thinks that “weapon” might have an alternative translation such as “tool.” Explosions sneaked into the craft by rogue soldiers explode but one of the aliens saves Louise and Ian by pushing them away from the area of impact. They both wake up in the base camp with a concussion, as the spacecraft moves higher into the sky. Ian works out that the pattern of symbols relates to the concept of time, and that it was one twelfth of the whole “gift”; hence nations must co-operate to get all of the information. Tensions increase as China prepares to attack it’s alien ship. Louise goes to the US ship and it sends down a smaller craft for her. She meets Costello, who communicates that Abbott is dead due to the blast. Louise asks about her visions, and Costello explains that she is seeing the future: this reveals that her ‘visions’ are not flashbacks but flash-forwards. Costello communicates that they have come to “help humanity” by sharing their language, which changes the perception of time, and is the “weapon” or “tool” they offer. The aliens also foresee that in 3000 years time they will need humanity’s help.
When Louise returns back she finds the camp being evacuated and she sees a new vision of being a UN meeting and being greeted by Chinese General Shang who thanks him for convincing him to suspend his attack. Shang goes on to say that as she called his private number and said the same words that his wife told him before dying, he called off the attack. Louise is shown Shang’s private number and he whispers the words to her in the vision. Back in the present, Louise steals a satellite phone and calls Shang, repeating what he told her in the vision. The Chinese attack is called off and the other nations resume contact with each other, and the twelve spacecraft leave the Earth, seemingly disappearing in the atmosphere. As they pack to leave, Ian tells Louise that he has fallen for her they discuss life choices and whether they should change if you could see the future. Louise sees a vision of Ian as the father of her daughter. Her vision continues with Ian asking her, further into the future, if she wants to make a baby. Louise sees herself replying “Yes,” wanting to share a short time with her future child rather than prevent her ever from existing.
Like I said very personal and touching film in the midst of a the-aliens-are-here-do-we-attack-them kinda film. Not for everyone and that’s ok. It is a good film with an able cast and a compelling story that moved me. A 10/10 for Amy Adams while the movie gets an 8/10.