By Bradley Griffith
The latest movie about aliens arriving on Earth is now available for rental in your home. But, don’t expect an alien invasion movie. Starring Amy Adams, “Arrival” is more a mystery and a study of the relationships between humans than any threat of aliens.
Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is a linguist and a professor at an unnamed university. In what appear to be flashbacks throughout the movie Louise relives her life with her daughter until her daughter’s diagnosis and resulting death from cancer. Louise is haunted by these visions.
In the midst of her despair a global emergency arises when twelve extra-terrestrial spaceships appear across the planet. The spaceships seemingly do nothing other than hover a short distance above the ground. Louise maintains her everyday routine, even though students stop attending classes because of the alien spacecraft.
A few days later Louise is approached by U.S. Army Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker). Weber wants Louise to use her extensive knowledge of languages to help communicate with the aliens inside the ships. Louise is quickly whisked away to a waiting helicopter where she meets Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner). Ian is a physicist from Los Alamos National Laboratory. Louise and Ian are a team and must work together to communicate with the aliens.
The team arrives in Montana to work with the UFO hovering above the isolated landscape. Louise and Ian are dressed in hazmat suits and raised up into the spaceship. Louise is amazed to see extremely unusual aliens on the other side of a glass barrier attempting to communicate with them in a very complex language.
Though teams are working at all twelve of the sites across the world, it’s Louise and Ian who make the most progress. The issue is whether they will be able to decipher the language before the powers that be decide to respond to the alien crafts with hostility.
The plot of “Arrival” incorrectly sounds like an alien invasion movie. Instead, the film is a mystery. The mystery is why the aliens came, what they want from us, and what are they trying to tell us in their intricate written language. Louise and Ian spend countless hours poring over these questions to avoid a military response to the vessels.
The movie is filmed with an overabundance of ominous tones and sounds that are intended to heighten the dark mood of the movie and accompany the revelations as the movie unfolds. They help create a sense of foreboding at first, but then quickly start to irritate as the overpowering sounds are played on an almost constant basis during nearly every scene, which causes them to lose any effect they may have once held.
“Arrival” also illuminates how quickly people can turn against members of their own team in the face of adversity. When people across the globe decide that they can’t understand the intentions of the aliens they turn against not only the aliens, but their own people. In its own way, the movie reveals more about humans than any fictitious aliens.
“Arrival” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture and has been widely lauded as one of the best movies of 2016. Unfortunately, it doesn’t live up to the hype. In many places during the movie the story drags and becomes almost boring. It’s not a terrible movie, but it’s a strange one and the final revelation is somewhat anti-climactic. It certainly doesn’t qualify as the “best” anything.
Rated PG-13 for brief strong language.