Arrival review – An alien presence provokes us to consider our own world

A thoughtful and provocative adaption of Ted Chiang’s science fiction short novel ‘Story of Your Life’

Arrival

★★★★☆ (EXCELLENT)


‘WHY ARE THEY HERE?’ the Arrival poster proclaims and it’s a question that Amy Adams’ linguist Dr. Louise Banks is tasked to answer.

Can she work out how to communicate with the inhabitants of the twelve mysterious extraterrestrial spacecraft that have appeared around our world? Will the race to establish if these visitors are friend or foe create further problems between the countries of an already politically destabilised globe?

Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) looks on in awe at the challenges ahead
Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) looks on in awe at the challenges ahead

For all its billing as a science fiction thriller, it’s the underlying narrative of a world thrown into political crisis by the alien visitors that particularly resonated with me. The characters’ reactions to the film’s events made for fascinating viewing, especially in the light of current real world political affairs.

Is the frighteningly real fear and hate currently being waged against immigrants by many global communities that different from the panic and prejudice instilled in the film’s characters by the arrival of the alien beings? It shows us how situations can be misinterpreted, how easily conclusions can be jumped to and the impact that this can have. Perhaps we have a thing or two to learn here about tolerance and understanding before we turn our own world into a collection of alien fortifications?

Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) weigh up the gravity of the situation
Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) weigh up the gravity of the situation

There were a couple of moments when I felt slightly confused by the plotting of the film and at one point in particular, this confusion led me to feel that the scene was far fetched to the point of being slightly unbelievable. In hindsight, I can see how it was my misunderstanding of the moment that was at fault, but I do feel that sometimes the script’s subtlety can lead to a bit of disorientation.

If you are looking for an Independence Day style alien invasion fest, then this film will disappoint. This is a discourse on a very real world, it just so happens that visitors from another world are the catalyst.

  • Directed by Denis Villeneuve.
  • Written by Eric Heisserer. Based on the story Story of Your Life written by Ted Chiang.
  • Featuring: Amy Adams, Jeremy RennerMichael Stuhlbarg and Forest Whitaker.

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