Arrival has been a big success with critics worldwide and it is not difficult to see why. With a bold and intriguing science fiction plot it could easily have limited its appeal to fans of such otherworldly adventures. However, Denis Villeneuve’s atmospheric hit brings heart to this ‘alien’ story and roots it in the very human experience of Dr Louise Banks (the brilliant Amy Adams).
Arrival is so much more than an alien encounter film; it is a look into loss, human response to threat and into global politics at a time of crisis
Dr Louise Banks is a linguist who is lecturing at a university following the tragic loss of her young daughter. When twelve extra-terrestrial spacecraft land seemingly at random across the globe, US Army Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) approaches her to attempt to understand and communicate with the creatures that have landed in the US. Theoretical physicist Ian Donelly (Jeremy Renner) joins Louise in the daunting quest to introduce themselves to the creatures and ascertain their reason for coming to Earth.
Arrival is so much more than an alien encounter film; it is a look into loss, human response to threat and into global politics at a time of crisis. As Louise herself points out, a global invasion of unknown creatures with unknown intentions should be an occasion for the world’s powers to pull together and seek a resolution but instead there is an inevitable descent into fear and hysteria when the creatures cannot immediately make their intentions clear. With Earth playing host to unknown entities, military divisions from all countries are on high alert… meanwhile Louise is just trying to say hello.
The message the film portrays is both loud and clear whilst being handled with a gentle subtlety. There is something to be said about peoples’ immediate need to destroy what they do not understand and whilst the world strikes, loots and panics Louise Banks approaches the creatures with all the care and kindness that you would show towards an injured animal. Who is to say the creatures have ill intent? A tear rolled down my cheek when Louise reaches her hand out to the towering alien being to find it offer a hand, of sorts, back in return.
It offers an illuminating look into how to deconstruct a simple human question for an entirely unknown species to hopefully comprehend
Amy Adams carries this film and provides moments of quiet in a world thrown into chaos. Her character’s personal pain helps inform her understanding and maternal approach to creatures that, for all anyone knows, could be terrified as well and there is a fantastic, intelligent change of pace in the film’s final act that casts light upon all of the flashbacks she experiences throughout the film.
The score by Johann Johannsson is gloriously otherworldly and feels almost transcendental in its uncanniness. There is much to enjoy for language and literature fans with an illuminating look into how to deconstruct a simple human question for an entirely unknown species to hopefully comprehend.
With some very important and relevant themes surrounding prejudice, fear and preconception this film is a must-watch for human beings of all backgrounds.
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Amy Adam, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker
Run Time: 116 minutes