November 13, 2016 -- The plot of this film is like a Mobius strip of time which endlessly loops back into itself. It sort of makes sense on an emotional level, at least. On an intellectual level? Not so much.
Amy Adams (“American Hustle”) stars as Dr. Louise Banks, a top linguist assigned to the difficult task of translating an extraterrestrial language. Alarmingly, a dozen large lozenge-shaped pods (called “shells”) suddenly arrive on earth from somewhere far away in the universe and hover just above the surface in a brazen display of anti-gravity tech.
That is not enough anti-gravity stuff for this film, however. More comes when Amy and her team walk straight up a wall inside the Montana shell (the other 11 shells are scattered around the world) to a window where they come face to cephalopod with the aliens. Working with Louise and her team is physicist Ian Donnelly (played by Jeremy Renner of the “Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation”).
Just about everyone else involved in contacting the aliens, soldiers, politicians and bureaucrats are blockheads who have to be constantly mollified so that they don't start a war with the aliens. An exception is Colonel Weber (Forrest Whitaker of “Southpaw”) who has a head on his shoulders, instead of a simple aggression in response to fear.
Louise is troubled by visions and dreams of her daughter, who tragically died young. Somehow, these visions seem to be related to understanding the alien language, but we don't find out about that, really, until near the end of the film.
As far as time goes, the concept of time in the film seems to be that of the “block time” or “block universe” theory in which the present, past and future all exist together as a single structure. Apparently in this movie block time reality, a person can remember the future, as well as the past. The “arrow of time” and these block time concepts are difficult.
But this film is much more than that. It rejects the notion that life is tragic simply because it inevitably ends in death. This story embraces death, life, sickness, despair and love. The answer to life it shouts is “Yes! It is worth it! All of it! Embrace all of it!” Now that is a breath of fresh air!
Pressure mounts to find an effective way to communicate with the aliens as other countries, and people acting on their own, sense a threat from the aliens and plot their destruction. Why did the aliens come to earth? What do they want? What do they plan to do? It is a mystery, which is answered, finally, kind of. This film rates a B.
Oh, by the way, there are a couple of other science fiction films with the same name as this one. The best known one, and it is not bad, is “The Arrival” (1996) starring Charlie Sheen. It is about aliens, not nice ones, from space living in secret on earth.
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