Reviewer: Federica Roberti
Inspired by Ted Chiang’s “Story of your Life” Arrival is a deeply philosophical movie that, by using aliens as a prop, analyses humanity through an extreme situation to showcase how communication and free will are fundamental parts of our life’s journey.
The timeline in the story seems quite linear and it is told by linguistic professor Louise Banks.
When twelve spacecraft lands in different locations around the world, a special task force is ensemble to investigate why aliens came to earth. Among the military running the operation, Dr. Banks and mathematician Ian Donnelly are recruited to understand how this extraterrestrial creatures communicate in order to ask them the fundamental question “what is your purpose on earth”.
Through their multiple contacts with the heptapods, Louise and Ian will try to break the intricate mechanism behind the aliens’ language and in doing so they will try to avoid mass destruction and a war waiting to explode against these dangerous invaders.
What might seem like a classic sci-fi movie turns out to be quite surprising and more earth centred that everyone might think.
The action is all focused in trying to understand the written language, identified as heptapod B. used by the aliens. Louise Banks is determined to understand it in order to really comprehend these extraterrestrial creatures. However, in her difficult journey to communicate with them the film shines a light on how important it is to create the same connection between every human being.
By employing aliens and their circular and intricate language, the real endgame of the story is to show how fundamental it is to create a meaningful connection between humans.
What this story is all about is to really understand how, most of the time, we tend to take life for granted, how mankind is becoming more and more afraid to create that deep connection that makes us human. Not only we are forgetting how to express our emotions in a direct way, we are also ignoring the fact that we are lucky enough to still be able to exercise our free will.
Knowing what will happen if we make a specific decision, but being able to choose to take this path no matter the consequences is at the centre of the story told by Louise.
With such a philosophical topic being highlighted it can be really easy to create a confusing movie hard to follow. However, Denis Villeneuve’s directing technique keeps the flow of the movie fluid and the story so interesting to follow that it becomes so easy to get emotionally attached to the characters and what they are living through.
The photography is spectacular and the way in which the inside of the spacecraft is portrayed is both simplistic and fascinating at the same time, showcasing how the aliens and their language are connected to time.
Amy Adams is completely committed to her character. Her performance is flawless and she was able to capture Louise’s love for language and her commitment and determination to learn as much as possible about these aliens effortlessly. Her perseverance never fades, however, with Dr. Banks’ understanding of the alien language, awareness and pain become part of her character and Adams was able to encompass in her performance all these different sides that are part of Louise’s personality.
Along with her, Jeremy Renner was able to show that he is not just a good actor when he is portraying a superhero. His Ian is both loyal to Louise and focused on completing his mission. He is the one that provides the film with some relief throughout the movie with sharp his sarcasm allowing the audience some time to breath between one meaningful scene to the other.
The great script and equally stellar performance by the cast ensemble is accompanied by a poignant original soundtrack by Jóhann Jóhannsson. The music that follows the action carries the meaning of the film with each note creating the right atmosphere for the audience to get captured by the story with a strong intensity.
Emotions are an important part of the film and more often than not I found myself lost in the scenes or moved by a specific moment in the story.
By using the alien factor to create an extreme situation, Arrival is a deeply human film that explores strong emotions and our ability to communicate, while asking the eternal question that everyone wants to know the answer to “if you could see your life from start to finish, will you change it?”
Arrival is out in UK cinemas now!