Aliens… do they exist? That is hard to say, but they certainly exist in our minds. Since forever, films have shown and dreamt about science-fiction narrative related to extra-terrestrial life, for example A Trip to the Moon (1902, dir. Georges Méliès). Today, filmmakers continue doing that through different ways. Arrival (2016) directed by Denis Villeneuve mesmerizes us by the astonishing images, sound effects, and clever narrative presented in the film. It is no wonder why this film was nominated for the Oscar’s Best Picture. Arrival is based on the book “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang.
The story starts with the image of Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and a child who has cancer and passes away. As a viewer, you don’t know what happened and how it came to be. Then, it begins. Louise, a linguist university professor, goes to work but on that day something occurs. The aliens have arrived. She seems curious but not excited or scared as everyone around her. Subsequently, Louise is asked to help the U.S.A. military to make contact with the arrived newcomers as she is a master in language and communication. Another scientist is asked to help in this mission, a theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner). Together with a few soldiers they enter the floating vertical space ship to try to communicate with the aliens. The chemistry between both actors is not sparkling, but that is okay, because it’s not about the emotions between them, but about Louise and the aliens.
The communication goes slow and the pressure is high, as countries such as China do not believe in the ‘good intentions’ of the aliens – chaos and the countdown start. All the countries disconnect all communication from other countries. Louise seems to be the only one believing in the good nature of the aliens. However, this pressure seems to interrupt her sleep. She sees images of the child that appeared at the beginning of the film. Is she hallucinating? What is happening? We ask. Later on, we discover the meaning of this.
At the end, everything makes sense and all the pieces fall into place. No scene was put there just for the melodramatic feeling. Everything had a purpose, which makes it intriguing and smart. Arrival gives you little hints that make you think and connect all the pieces. This science-fiction film is not about the spectacular as in big explosions, horrendous creatures, or tremendous space ships. Instead, it presents a sober, clever, and captivating story that is coherent and worth watching.
Cover Image: Screenshot Arrival – The ‘shell’.