A Superb Sci-fi Epic That Thankfully Keeps Itself Grounded
The sci-fi genre is truly a competitive field. Sometimes many films go over the top with their interpretation of Alien encounters. Nevertheless I was genuinely amazed when I watched Arrival. It’s a well-worked piece of movie making and takes you into another sphere of plot experience.
With slight traits from Ridley Scott’s Alien, Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and H. G. Wells’ classic tale The War of The Worlds, Arrival was an in depth exploration in what Alien contact could be like – and it certainly excelled in that aspect.
With direction by the talented Denis Villeneuve, Arrival is based on a short tale: Story Of Your Life by Ted Chiang.
The main focus of the plot revolves around Dr Louise Banks, played diligently by (Amy Adams). Her life seems to be a daze of haunting memories and poignant experiences about her dead daughter, which seem to go on and on – like a never-ending dream from which she cannot awake.
The ‘pain’ they represent eat away at her in her present day life. But Dr Louise Banks tries to put these sore memories aside by concentrating on her occupation in teaching and education. She is also sympathetic to her students; maybe she sees them as part of the child she lost.
I have to say Amy Adams is an exceptional actress; she’s great in her role as Dr Louise Banks and gives a performance of outstanding purpose and emotional outpouring.
When the Aliens arrive for the first time in the skies, displayed to the world on our television screens, humanity goes into a state of panic. And we are left wondering if a full scale military encounter can be avoided between the squabbling nations of the Planet Earth and our ‘Out of this World Guests.’
The Aliens are called “Heptapods”. They’re an insect type, octopus-like creature, and the appearance of them is unsettling at first sight – with their strange shaped hands, and a vulgarity to the rest of their form that perpetuates menace. They only way they seem able to communicate with mankind are through an intricate form of artistic numeric shapes and hieroglyphs, smearing them against a screen of transparent glass.
I found there was a more restrained attitude within Arrival, unlike others in its ilk. There’s no massive battles scenes, no destruction of cities with the inevitable exploding buildings and natural disasters, and no exploding spaceships darting amongst the Earth’s atmosphere, I thought this approach helped a lot with the grounding component of Arrival’s narrative.
With a top-notch stellar cast, including Forest Whitaker, as the stern, no nonsense armed forces’ commander, Michael Stuhlbarg as the interfering government official, Tzi Ma as General Shang, and a creepy musical score by the talented Jóhann Jóhannsson, the movie edged along with a measured degree of intensity and threat.
Arrival delves deeply into the contact aspect between Aliens and mankind as Dr Louise Banks (Amy Adams) an expert in language communication is called upon by the authorities to work on various translation techniques to understand and befriend the “Heptapods”. She does this with a varied degree of success, but there are the military generals of the world in the background, wanting her to fail in her task. And in reality most of them are nothing more than a bunch of trigger-happy warmongers.
And so, when we look at ourselves in the world today, with the permanent destruction that surrounds us, be it war, or the financial state of the faltering banks, it does make me wonder what indeed would happen if we had to join forces to combat an Alien threat. I think Arrival gets the balance right. Mankind would probably be ineffective. We’d spend all of our time trying to destroy each other instead of preventing our own destruction or annihilation.
Arrival is a mature and naturally handsome sci-fi movie. At times it captured the real heart of what communication may ultimately be like between us and an Alien force if this occurrence transpired around the skies of our fragile Planet Earth – and how humanity would probably fail to have any kind of cohesive response. Maybe the real enemy wouldn’t be from Aliens if they appeared from space, but from mankind’s own stupidity, recklessness and megalomania.