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Arrival review

Posted by admin on November 15, 2016


Put yourself back in French class in high school. The textbook your given has a preface that the new language your about to acquire isn’t just important in a modern world, but remains a poetic way of communicating. But then your teacher comes in and you can’t get past her introductory, “Bonjour!”. It all seems to come out as alien and you suddenly think that you’ll never be able to communicate with the French. First of all, many French people know English. The other thing that people tend to forget that as babies, their own language was just as strange.

Though we speak and write every day, it usually never comes across that were using a complex system of characters and set structures to even do something basic. It’s only when were learning a new language when the difficulty comes up of seeing something in Japanese, Arabic, Hebrew, and even sign language. Today’s movie actually addresses something that very few science fiction ever figure out; if aliens did come to earth or vice-versa, just how do we talk to them? Much of the previous movies either conveniently give them the English language or simply make the uncommunicative hostile. Arrival goes into better detail on how one might be able to crack an alien language.

Linguist professor Louise Banks (played by Amy Adams) is a brilliant woman, but seems to suffer from bad memories of her daughter who died young of a rare disease. When she goes in to teach a class, she witnesses the news which talks about twelve mysterious UFOs that have touched over various parts of the world. The ships remain in place, but this sets off a panic from the public. Louise is selected for a military team to go to the UFO that’s hovering over Montana.

A part of the team is also physicist Donnelly (played by Jeremy Renner) and US Army Colonel Weber (played by Forest Whitaker). They all eventually enter the ship and make first contact with the aliens, which are dubbed “Abbott and Costello” to tell the two a part. Louise uses her skills to teach them a few basic words like “Human” and “Earth”. The written response from the aliens is incredibly complicated circle-like symbols. By working with the aliens more, she starts to understand just how the circles work and what each structure means. She is working to eventually ask, “Why did you come to Earth?”.

Arrival happens to be a fresh change of pace in the science fiction genre, especially after an abysmal summer of lame blockbusters. Not only is the story very creative with how people could potentially talk to life in the universe, but it is gorgeously shot. Director Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Sicario) has crafted the best cinematography of the year with the way he can capture depression, mystery, and from the shot of the first flight into Montana, awe. He also manages to cleverly keep the story within the military camp and only show the outside world through news channels, making the situation more confined.

Amy Adams proves again that she’s a very strong actor, considering my phrase for her in 2014 for Big Eyes (which I still feel she was robbed of an Oscar nomination). Jeremy Renner and Forrest Whitaker, while they do fine, are merely passable and aresurprisingly given little development. Though to the credit of the story, it at least keeps it’s focus on what it needs to do.

Speaking of story, I’ll admit that the final twist is creative to both the plot and they way the film is structured, so I will not dare spoil that here.


I’ll give this four and a half alien language circles out of five. Those that are looking for a heavier action movie are not going to get this here. What they will get is a slower (intentionally) story about how hard it would be to even say hello should aliens come to our planet. 


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