Most depictions of aliens arriving on Earth as being an invasion, though I often wondered what it is about our tiny rock in the universe that might attract extra terrestrial lifeforms to want to destroy us. In director Denis Villeneuve’s version, these particular aliens’ vessels – all twelve of them – never even touch our ground. They make no sound either, which explains how they snuck into twelve different cities across the world without anyone noticing.
As each nation sends their armies and various experts to try and communicate with these surprise visitors, Colonel Weber (Forest Whittaker) enlists the help of a linguistics professor, Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and theoretical physicist, Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) to try and decipher the aliens’ language.
Over a period of time, Louise and Ian teach their new friends, now known as “Heptapods”, English while their counterparts, resembling something like giant squids, who Ian nicknames Abbott and Costello return in kind. The Heptapod language looks like ink circles which they squirt out of their starfish-like tentacle “arms” (or are they legs?). To the untrained eye, every circle looks pretty much the same, but with the help of the large team of scientists brought in by the army to help, Banks is finally able to crack the language.Through it all, we see Louise having visions involving the death of a loved one, some of which appear to drive her to the epiphany that answers the big question: What is the purpose of their visit?
Whilst I found the pacing of this movie incredibly slow (especially compared to Villeneuve’s Sicario last year), there are some fundamental points being made in this movie: international political alliances being played out, the natural human instinct to attack rather than defend, the desire to communicate and share by some as opposed to self-preservation and suspicion by others.
There is no doubt this film is all about Amy Adams’ Louise and she absolutely delivers brilliantly as you would expect from someone of her calibre. However, there is so little for most of the supporting cast and miscellaneous actors to do that one wonders what they are there for at all. And I cannot help but think of the “shells”, as they call these UFOs in Arrival, as vertical flattened bread rolls.
Arrival opened in Australia on November 10th.