Editor In Chief
Arrival, directed by Denis Villeneuve, starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker, came as an unexpected addition to the science fiction genre. Featuring aliens, the government and a beautiful woman, Arrival seems like the perfect candidate for another formulaic Hollywood sci-fi movie. Due to incredible work on all fronts, there is no way the film could defy genre expectations more.
Based on the short story, Stories of Your Lives by Ted Chiang, Arrival is about 12 alien pods that land, or rather hover, near major world powers, such as China, Pakistan, Russia and the United States. Their arrival strikes fear into every living soul. Nobody really knows what is going to happen or what the aliens are going to do, which provokes the action of governments around the world.
According to the film industry, fighting the unknown tends to be simple. Arrival shows the reactions of the public and the government more realistically than classic sci-fi flicks; nobody really knows what to do. The film takes audiences through a more believable reaction to foreign beings landing on earth. It coaxes audiences into thinking about how complicated solving a situation like this could be and that there would really be no easy solution.
It is also perhaps one of the first science fiction films to emphasize the importance of linguistics when communicating with aliens, or as Louise’s teams identifies them, heptapods. If aliens were to ever land on earth, not that they would, the likelihood of that species knowing our language or someone on Earth magically knowing theirs would be very slim. Louise, played by Amy Adams, acts as the bridge between humans and the aliens. Her deep understanding of language encourages a better understanding of the heptapods.
Beyond the intricate themes the film explores, there is also wonderful development of character and story. Louise Banks is not just a “strong female character”, she is a tangible human being. Adams, along with the help of the director, helps redefine what it means to be a powerful woman within fiction. Louise is scared and confused yet still curious and dauntless in her efforts of discovery. She demonstrates a character that is intelligent and admirable without once having to punch or physically assault someone. The same goes for Ian Donnelly, played by Jeremy Renner, a physicist who helps Louise decipher the language of the heptapods. This is in contrast to many of Renner’s more well-known roles in actions films in which the character is dynamic, but lacks complex development.
In the end, the point to the story is not to comment on the lack of understanding and communication within different global societies, but emphasizes a solution to that problem. The solution demonstrated in the movie may not be plausible, however it is representational of what can be used to solve the problem of misunderstanding: using what Louise calls a “universal language.” Arrival highlights the importance of communication, not just through a common language, but through something that everyone shares: deep and complex feeling.
There are not enough words in the English language that could describe how well assembled Arrival was. Maybe, if we are lucky, there are enough words in the mysterious “universal language” as created by the heptapods, that could essentially describe exactly how awe inspiring the film is. And of all times for the release of a movie about unifying humanity via the help of extraterrestrial beings, now is the best time.
Photo Courtesy/ Paramount Pictures