NEWS FLASH: The United States is a crossroads. The elected president didn’t receive the most votes and our streets are filled with race-inspired protest on a monthly basis. We can’t even decide if the color of a dress on social media is blue or black anymore.
Divisiveness is at the root of violent conflict and flat-out hate this country hasn’t seen in a long time. Admittedly the media can be the cause of this, but every now and then it also has the ability to speak loudly and open our eyes.
Whether done intentionally or not, Arrival comes with a message that is targeted, important, and relevant to today’s society.
The film follows expert linguist Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams), as she is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications. Twelve alien pods have landed on Earth in different locations, and militaries from across the world make an attempt to learn why they are here. As the film progresses, Banks slowly but surely learns the alien language in an attempt to answer that question.
Banks is clearly the focal point of the movie, and Adams does a fine job carrying it. There are a lot of suspenseful scenes between her and the aliens as they attempt to communicate, and Adams does a nice job holding that emotion. Mathematician Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) is brought in as Banks’ colleague, and serves as a quality complement. Adams and Renner work well with each other and have solid on-screen chemistry. Forest Whitaker, who serves as their superior Colonel Weber, talks with an odd Boston-type accent I was never really able to get over.
Acting performances aside, the star of this movie is the writing. Arrival is based on the book Story of Your Life, and this adaptation has me wanting to read the novel. All credit to Eric Heisserer, who wrote the screenplay. I mentioned the tense scenes above, and as the story comes together there’s a twist that gives the viewer a solid “ah ha” moment.
The underlying message of “communicate” is what makes Arrival worth seeing, however. The fact Dr. Banks is a linguist makes this obvious, but the film also features a quick-to-react General Shang (Tzi Ma). The Chinese general clearly enters his alien communication sessions with a closed mind, looking for any reason to fight rather than listen. As a result the entire world is on the verge of its own demise.
Maybe the current state of our country makes this theme more obvious. Whatever the reason the message is necessary – Shang and Dr. Banks have an exchange near the end of the film that goes untranslated, but whatever is said should be broadcast across the country as a sign of hope.
Communication is more important now than it ever has been. Give Arrival a chance, let its message sink in, and give that a chance as well.