With the holiday season in full swing, a slew of blockbuster films are emerging at the theaters. Most people may be anticipating films such as Assassins Creed or Rouge One, but one film not to overlook is Arrival. Denis Villeneuve, director of Prisoners (2013) and Sicario (2015), takes on his first sci-fi film starring Amy Adams. Arrival was also based on a short story titled "Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang.
The film begins with a flashback as well as an introduction to Adams’s character, Dr. Louise Banks, a linguist and professor. This (somewhat overused) storytelling device established Banks’s relationship with her daughter who passed away. This set-up seemed to come very early, disclosing the fate of her daughter only ten minutes into the film -- it left the audience wondering how significant that character would actually become and how it would be relevant to the story ahead.
An unknown amount of time has passed and a number of extraterrestrial spacecraft land across Earth. Colonel Weber (played by Forest Whitaker) seeks the aid of Banks and astrophysicist Ian Donnelly (played by Jeremy Renner) to try and uncover the reason behind the UFO arrival. Upon reaching the site, Banks and Donnelly learn that countries from around the world have been working as a team to unravel the mysteries of the twelve spacecraft that they call “shells”. It was very clear that the writer was establishing a theme surrounding global aid and communication -- an issue often brought up in modern politics and foreign affairs.
Banks and Donnelly are escorted into the shell that has landed in the United States, and they encounter a pair of aliens, which they call “heptapods”. Banks and Donnelly are tasked with trying to communicate with the heptapods and eventually develop a form of communication using symbols. Throughout the film, Banks has constant flashbacks of her daughter and obscure dreams; it was presumed to be a result of the exposure to the atmosphere within the shell that Banks entered on a daily basis. The diverse, global teams of scientists were making great progress until one nation, China, cut off their ties from the others, resulting in uproar and ultimately a fear of imminent violence. In this moment, I was very impressed with the way the film was displaying how important it is for all people of Earth to work together should we ever be faced with an alien invasion. At the climax of the film, countries such as China and Russia were preparing to begin an assault on their respective shell -- in other words, our planet was on the brink of war. As it turns out, Banks was the missing piece of the puzzle. After having a vision and visiting the heptapods one last time, Banks uncovers a hidden talent she possessed -- the ability to transcend time. The revelation was such an unforeseen, yet unique moment and suddenly, the flashbacks that Banks experienced brought the whole story together in the most satisfying way.
Adams’s spectacular performance is reason alone to watch this film, but the writing is out of this world. Without disclosing any more information about the plot, the level of drama and suspense is very well kept and audiences are sure to feel the intensity as the story unfolds and the mystery comes into fruition.
Arrival’s presentation was unique in that it was not the sci-fi film one would typically expect, yet it delivers a unique story with powerful, grounded performances that leaves the audience captivated. If you’re looking for a fresh take on modern sci-fi films, be sure to catch Arrival in theaters now!