When 12 alien ships appear in random locations across the globe the local populations all have strong reactions to their presence but no one seems to know why they are really here. Arrival is Primarily set in Montana U.S.A. and stars Amy Adams as Dr. Louise Banks, Jeremy Renner as Ian Donnelly and Forest Whitaker Colonel Weber with direction by Denis Villeneuve.
Arrival is a sci-fi film that emphasises the human story and most importantly the nature of language with Dr. Louise Banks being brought into to understand the aliens communications which proves to be quite a difficult task. This is mostly because the aliens communicate with logograms (symbols) that can put words in any order without changing the meaning of the message which is otherwise known as non linear orthography.
There is a lot in the film about the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis which suggests that the language we speak is inimitably tied to the reality we experience and as Louise learns more about the alien language she begins to experience visions of a different time. Films usually use flashbacks to tell more of the backstory but this film turns things on it head by using flashing forwards, showing the audience what is to come, thus giving the films events an even greater impact.
Another of the main characters in Arrival is Ian Donnelly, a man who is brought in to assist with the science but despite coming up with some good ideas he mostly a secondary character to Dr. Louise Banks. However I thought that the interactions between these two characters was really good and I liked the way that the worked together as both of them also seemed to grow a lot over the course of the film.
Colonel Webber doesn’t get to do a whole lot throughout the film either but what he does do is to bring both Dr. Louise Banks and Ian Donnelly onto the team in order to figure out why the aliens are really here. He is obviously sceptical about the events that are happening around him but also smart enough to realise that these two can get the job done, this is all apparent from the brilliant acting of Forest Whitaker.
Arrival has a lot of interesting thoughts and ideas that are told through the lens of science fiction and that is where I think it works well. It is definitely something of a slow burn but it certainly has a lot to say about the nature of time, language and the value of working together to solve our problems.
All of the main cast and supporting actors deliver brilliant performances and I found myself thinking a lot about this film for a long time after watching it. If you enjoy a bit of science fiction and want to see something a bit different then I would highly recommend checking out this film.