Arrival is the new intelligent, thoughtful, inventive, contemplative, beautiful, and mesmerizing science fiction alien first contact movie by the director of Sicarrio, Enemy, and Prisoners. I mention his previous work to drive home that this is not your average, every day Independence Day type alien sci-fi film. This is a smart and thought-provoking indie sci-fi film that is compelling and really good.
It’s always a good thing when a movie about smart people doing smart things is released and it’s extra nice when that’s a sci-fi flick where maybe the desire from studios is to have laser guns and explosions (pew pew!). I’m all for pew pew laser death beams, sure, but since we get that a lot and something smart less often, this movie was so welcome.
Basic premise… aliens arrive in twelve very large ships around the world and proceed to not blow us up but to open their doors to allow an attempt at communication. So the US military brings in Amy Adams who is a prized linguist to help foster communication with an alien species. These aliens are alien – they think differently, their language doesn’t make sense, and their form of writing makes little sense at first. This movie presents the science of linguistics and a believable alien language in a way that’s actually interesting and smart. I may quibble that maybe approaching the aliens with something like binary, prime numbers, or the fibonacci sequence might have been smarter… but the movie has a goal for going with language but I will say no more. Basically, I’ve read smarter novels about this topic, but rarely do you see it filmed.
What was also great about this movie is that there’s a revelation in it that makes me want to watch it all over again with new eyes. It’s really smart screenwriting and, thinking back, it all seems to hang together. But need to see it again to be sure.
I will warn that the trailers are a little misleading. None of it is lies – one aspect of the movie is the international tensions that erupt over this arrival. There is some real suspense as it shows or talks about how the various nations are handling the revelations from the aliens… and whether things will go south and people will start shooting. But the movie has a much more deliberate pace than the trailers suggest. It’s a quiet, contemplative movie that some might find sluggish or tedious. I did not – I loved its pacing.
So there ya go – I really recommend this film to people who like good, smart films. Think of it like a more artistic Contact… not really the same style of first contact movie but with the same heart and intelligence.