Resin Heroes

Arrival (2016) movie review

Grade: A-

As I watched the movie Arrival I couldn’t help but thinking I’ve seen this all before. The main concept of the story here, that aliens have arrived on the Earth and it’s up to a group of scientists to communicate with them to discover if they’ve arrived with good or bad intents is a standard sci-fi trope. There’s been loads of TV series like Twilight Zone and Outer Limits and movies like Close Encounters of the Third Kind that have dealt with this before.

However, just because this has all been done before doesn’t mean Arrival isn’t one heck of a good film and the plot even twists this well-worn concept enough to make the story new and fresh.

Here, seed-shaped spacecraft have arrived over twelve points across the planet and it’s up to linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams), scientist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) and army officer Weber (Forest Whitaker) to find out why. The aliens written language consists of these wobbly, almost painterly circles, and as Banks slowly figures the language out she finds more mysteries than answers. And when the Chinese military begin plans to attack the craft hovering over their territory when they don’t like the answers they’re given by the aliens, the question is if Banks can decode the meaning behind the language fast enough, and if her translations are correct before the US military follows suit.

Arrival has gotten a lot of buzz since it was first released and has been nominated for eight Academy Awards. All of which is simply amazing for a story that I can’t imagine would have ever been made as a movie even a few years ago before the current sci-fi boom. I liked most of Arrival, the first half is good enough if a bit typical sci-fi. But the last half, especially the ending, is pure genius. The ending takes Arrival into a completely unexpected direction, taking a so-so story and elevating it to a whole new level.

Arrival is one of those movies that when it ended I felt like I needed to watch again just to see everything I’d missed the first time through, even if everything I missed was hiding in plain sight all along.