Saturday, November 26, 2016

Arrival (2016)

Interruption to our normal programming…  Beware: Major Spoilers!

I haven’t felt like writing a review of a film in a long while. My previous movie musings are still available over at (mostly defunct) After seeing this year’s ‘Arrival’, with major theme of communication, I am prompted to express my thoughts, rather than a review, on what makes this movie worth seeing.

Amy Adams, her of ‘American Hustle’ and ‘Batman v Superman’ fame, is chief protagonist, professor of linguistics Louise Banks. As the synopsis goes, the world’s nations teeter on the verge of war, Banks and her elite team of investigators, working for the US government, race against time to find a way to communicate with the ‘visitors’. Hoping to unravel the mystery, Banks takes a chance that could threaten her life. and quite possibly all of mankind.

Based on the short story by Ted Chiang, ‘Story of Your Life’, is a sci-fi conundrum, so to fully appreciate this movie you should cease reading anything more. I mean ANYTHING, even watching the trailer, as going in blind is the best way to experience this visceral masterpiece.

So stop here and come back when you’ve seen it.

Right, how was it for you? On a down-to-earth basics level it’s not bad as sci-fi goes, not many explosions or comic one-liners or mad-cap save-the-world heroics. These do exist in Arrival, but they are a whole different animal.

Some die-hard fans of ‘true sci-fi’, come out asking ‘what’s all the fuss about’? While others, leave this movie feeling like they’ve experienced something profound.

Questions about time, language, and ethics resonate throughout, just as you think you’ve figured it out something changes, ‘til suddenly you get it! Although the Aliens have their strange pictorial language, I worked out more or less that they are communicating with our protagonist via memories. Although there is some debate on this, as  the Aliens ‘experience non-linear time’. Therefore, the consensus is, Banks is actually living the future, or something.

Anyway, like all good sci-fi, the science doesn’t quite add up. There are flaws, no movie is ever perfect, but these flaws make for great debate. I predict this will be one for the annals, much like 2001: A Space Odyssey. Although, as a former geek, I must admit that these past few years I’ve missed out on a lot of the contemporary stuff like Interstellar.

So, for me personally, this film is more about prophesy, after all, prophesy exists to avert catastrophe not predict it. That’s what I’ve read. This is the crux of the entire story… if you know something about the future and have a choice to change it, do you… and who do you tell about it?

There is a lot going on in this, a lot of clues mentioned in passing remarks, nuances, that it’s easy to miss the message.

At one point our man from the CIA says, to paraphrase:  ‘Of course there’s an alien threat as there is ‘NO ONE WORLD LEADER’ for them to talk to.” What is he trying to say, you can only wonder in paranoiac ways.

Arrival is many things to many people – if you’ve ever loved and lost, hoped and dreamed, regretted and reminisced, and pondered the age old questions of who we are, and where did we come from, you’ll find it all within the experience that is Arrival.

In essence this is no ordinary sci-fi movie, and you’ll either like it or think it slow, boring nonsense, but by the time you reach your conclusion, it’s already too late.


Dennis said...

Saw the movie in Eugene Oregon, the movie goers were silent after the movie, everyone sat and watched the credits, shuffled quietly out. The movie definitely makes you think/ponder. The dialogue about the weapons and the visitors escaped me some how. Did they need our weapons to help them 3,000 years in the future? The secret of the Chinese presidents last words to his wife was odd, could not these intelligences do the same for every leader, thru Amy? It is refreshing to view a movie without gratuitous violence. Shine forth brave souls. Dennis

... said...

The more you think about this movie (or see it) the more questions you have. I started thinking about 'time cycles', it even occurred to me that the interior of the 'shells' were more like a sort of time 'portal' and that the visitor were not actually inside them... I don't know... it's all open to interpretation I guess. Definitely not your ordinary noisy sci-fi.

Thanks Dennis!