“Arrival” is unlike any movie you’ll see this year, or next year for that matter.
It is a non-linear story about non-linear time and is more about a woman’s arrival at her own abilities than it is about aliens coming to Earth. When you leave the theater, you will arrive at the conclusion that you just saw a very strange, and different, movie. Put simply and bluntly, it is a mindfuck.
“Arrival” is not a movie about aliens. In fact, the aliens themselves, of which you only see two, seem secondary to the larger story. That is how a world would react when faced with a universal issue. In this case, it’s the arrival of 12 alien ships spread across the globe.
Amy Adams gives a terrific performance as linguistics expert Louise Banks, who is brought in to try to figure out how to communicate with the aliens and find out why they came to Earth. Along with physicist Ian Donnelly, played by Jeremy Renner, they start to decipher the aliens’ language and are able to communicate.
They would be great with a Rorschach test.
The other countries across the globe are also able to communicate and the Chinese are the first to discover a word that terrifies them. So, of course, instead of communicating with the other nations to see if there is some confusion, China cuts off communication and declares war on the aliens. Russia is soon to follow. The U.S. government is also predictably bad and won’t listen to reason from Banks or Donnelly, so she has to go rogue in order to get results and prevent an intergalactic war.
It’s in this storyline where “Arrival” falls into the cliché of the big, bad governments headed by people who can’t see the big picture. There is also a reference to a news network that always gives slanted “news” – choose between MSNBC or Fox News, depending on where your political affiliations lie.
Despite “Arrival” coming across as sanctimonious, it is still a well-executed movie that will evoke plenty of emotions. It also calls into question how the world would react to a global phenomenon, splinter or unite?
If you’re expecting a high-action alien movie, look elsewhere. What you get in “Arrival” is a methodically paced film that forces you to think instead of being wowed by special effects.