Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Denis Villeneuve|
|Screenplay by||Eric Heisserer|
|Based on||“Story of Your Life”
by Ted Chiang
|Music by||Jóhann Jóhannsson|
|Edited by||Joe Walker|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures
|Box office||$39.2 million|
Arrival is a 2016 American hard science fiction thriller film directed by Denis Villeneuve and written by Eric Heisserer, based on the short story “Story of Your Life” by author Ted Chiang. The film stars Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg and Tzi Ma.
Arrival had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on September 1, 2016, and was released in the United States on November 11, 2016, in IMAX by Paramount Pictures. The film received positive reviews, and praise for its story, sustained intense and suspenseful atmosphere, and Amy Adams’s performance. It has grossed $39 million.
Twelve mysterious extraterrestrial spacecraft, nicknamed “shells” by the U.S. military, appear across the Earth. It is unclear why they have arrived or whether there is any logic behind their choice of sites. Linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is selected to join a special team created to analyse the alien species at the US site in Montana, due to her skills in translation and her existing high level security clearance. Also on the team are theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), and a US Army Colonel named Weber (Forest Whitaker). The story opens with a sequence of Louise with her daughter, who dies of a rare type of cancer while still young.
Louise decides that two-way communication in the aliens’ spoken language would be impossible. However, she discovers that they can communicate using their written language, which is based upon complicated circular symbols with inter-related components. With Ian’s help she begins to learn the symbols that correspond to a basic English vocabulary, hoping to build understanding so that she can eventually ask why the aliens have come to Earth. As Louise begins to become more proficient with the alien language, she starts to see images of herself with her daughter, both whilst communicating and later, as dreams.
The potential ambiguity in translation becomes a serious issue when the aliens communicate symbols that translate as “offer weapon”, with similar translations (for example “use weapon”) being deduced at other sites. As other nations, which had initially all been sharing their data and analysis, translate their versions of the message, they close down communication with each other. Some start to scramble their military, believing the message to indicate a threat. Louise believes that, due to the difficulty of translating the language’s complex structure, the “weapon” element of the symbol might have an alternative meaning, such as “tool”.
Rogue soldiers take matters into their own hands and plant a timed C4 explosive device within the shell. Louise and Ian are unaware of the device and go back into the shell, to communicate with Abbott and Costello again. Costello guides Louise to write one of their symbols on the barrier, and then both Abbott and Costello fill the screen with hundreds of smaller symbols. The device continues to count down as the rogue soldiers engage in a firefight with troops from the command centre. Costello leaves just before the device explodes but Abbott stays behind long enough to push Louise and Ian out of the communication chamber. They wake up in the base camp with concussion as the shell rises higher into the sky, out of reach.
Ian analyzes the pattern of symbols that the aliens had displayed to establish that it relates to the concept of time, and that what they received was one twelfth of an intended whole.
Meanwhile China makes preparations to attack their shell, and some other international forces do the same.
- Amy Adams as Dr. Louise Banks, a linguist.
- Jeremy Renner as Ian Donnelly, a military astrophysicist.
- Forest Whitaker as Colonel Weber, a senior US military officer.
- Michael Stuhlbarg as Agent Halpern
- Tzi Ma as General Shang
- Mark O’Brien as Captain Marks
The concept and first part of this movie were fresh and spot on, but it turned into the same lost child/lost parent psychological drama that “First Contact” was. Amy Adams looks so much like Nicole Kidman, I thought it was Nicole until my date told me it wasn’t. That is a compliment to Amy’s acting. All of the actors did a great job, the story just ended up being the same ole, same ole. The movie was intriguing to me, and it taught me about some linguistics theory I would have never know had I not seen this film. However, it is what it is, a newer version of “First Contact,” differing enough that they don’t seem like the same thing. Nothing new, but still entertaining. 3.5 stars – MR