Coming to an understanding…
A linguist is called on to translate aliens to ensure the safety of the United States. She begins to get visions of her young daughter who died young.
Arrival Official Trailer 1 (2016) – Amy Adams Movie, Movieclips Trailers and photos by Paramount Pictures
Arrival (2016) is narrated during the film by the leading lady, Amy Adams as Dr Louise Banks. We see short scenes of Louise with her baby and feel the presence of Louise’s husband. The baby grows up to be a feisty wee girl, we see loving scenes of mother and daughter, then they are both in hospital and the daughter sadly dies of cancer. With Louise leaving the hospital alone.
She then cut to Louise’s life as a linguist lecturer living alone in a lakeside home. One day at the urging of her class, she switches on the television news to find the news that unidentified pod-shaped objects have appeared in twelve countries across the globe. The countries’ inhabitants are unaware that the governments have made contact with the beings inside these vehicles.
Later Louise is approached by the US army headed by Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker). She is needed to translate these aliens to find out their intentions and the purpose of their visit. She asks that she first develops a mutual understanding of vocabulary between her and the alien beings when they communicate.
This is so they can interact successfully. The military dismisses this idea. However later that night a chopper landS, and the military ask her to join them leaving her lakeside home, with them accepting her conditions. En route she meets Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), a gruff but kindly physicist – also roped in to assist the army – with who she builds a rapport.
The aliens communicate using their star-shaped hands to write symbols. She independently communicates with the aliens visible behind a glass screen, and they build a mutually understandable written vocabulary between them. Fueled by her work and enthusiasm, Ian joins her in this. She begins to get visions of her daughter which relate to her work and relationship with her husband who she is separated from.
Meanwhile, there is much concern worldwide when on answering about their intentions, the aliens write the ambiguous phrase “Use Weapon”.. leading to China influencing the other countries involved in believing this is a threat rather than a different more palatable translation. Louise, however, sees more possible ways to translate these words… while the Chinese prepare to attack the Chinese based spacecraft.
The film was based on an award-winning story, The Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang. Chiang was reportedly impressed by his story interpreted on the big screen with a few minor yet significant changes. IMDb quotes him saying:
“I think it’s that rarest of the rare in that it’s both a good movie and a good adaptation… And when you consider the track record of adaptations of written science fiction, that’s almost literally a miracle.”
This story tells more about a person involved in a sci-fi situation, so we feel more interested and invested in Louise’s individual story, rather than a clichéd alien invasion movie full of human stereotypes.
Also, it was a nice change from the usual storyline, where a vision of understanding was given to the aliens and then a relationship and rapport were built between alien and human. This was played effectively, in simple and effective scenes rather than a clichéd montage. And could almost be like a metaphor for the current understanding of other countries to clarify communications, so they are understood by all rather than one country’s perception of the truth.
The film’s Louise is wonderfully played by Amy Adams, she makes her character develop from a sympathetic one to one of great strength of character. As Louise begins to get her visions, you feel happy for her in the touching mother and daughter scenes.
In turn, you feel more of the grief she feels for this child and her failed relationship. Adams moves you throughout, feeling her pain and emotions throughout her scenes delivered so credibly that you can almost feel you are experiencing her storyline with her.
Renner is wonderful too in his all too small role – adding a small dash of humour into proceedings as he did in Captain America’s Civil War (2016) – but it would have been nice to see his character develop more, and see more of his part in the work with the aliens. I felt he was a bit underused but this may have been as the story was more focused on Louise.
Finally, it was also nice to see these actors in different more dramatic roles than their Marvel and D.C. ones. However, with both characters fighting aliens in their previous roles as Hawkeye for him and Lois Lane for her, who else could you call upon in understanding these creatures?
Weeper Rating: 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 /10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 /10
Hulk Rating: /10