In the age of Independence Day and Transformers, alien movies tend to be rather overshadowed by action instead of provoking serious thoughts about the whole idea of extraterrestrials visiting mankind. Arrival, however, chose the latter approach. Director Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners) has created a somewhat realistic scenario depicting human errors while facing the challenge of two levels of communication: 1) understanding the way the aliens communicate while 2) attempting to work together as one unit with all the countries in the world.
Have you ever wondered what might happen if we were visited by aliens? How we could understand other life forms that communicate in a completely different way than we’re used to? And how we would manage to coordinate communication between humans and aliens? Who would be allowed to speak to them? Arrival approaches all these kinds of questions while telling the story about linguist Louise Banks, who is chosen to lead an expert team to investigate how to understand the aliens.
The movie is quite realistic because it depicts the whole process of the encounter in a very plausible way. Though, it does include some futuristic sci-fi elements since the aliens are highly advanced in terms of science and technology. There are some major twists that require your attention to fully understand the plot. It is only when you listen and observe carefully – like the linguist experts trying to figure out the alien language – you realise what is actually going on. The only thing that annoyed me was the amount of time the movie spent on Banks’ rather boring flashbacks about her daughter. They are uninteresting at first, because they don’t contribute to the story until the very end of the movie. However, the wait for the ending is worth it.
Arrival’s strength might also be its biggest weakness. Given that it actually isn’t an action movie even though nowadays many expect alien movies to be so, it might not appeal to the masses. Cinema goers looking for some mindless action will probably be bored and won’t appreciate the movie for what it is. Meanwhile, everyone else will have a great time seeing one of the most realistic alien movies ever.