Film Review: Arrival

Rating:

Based on the short story, Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang, which is a part of his Stories of Your Life and Others collection, Arrival is directed by Denis Villeneuve and is premised during an alien invasion after multiple mysterious spacecrafts touch down across the globe. Recruited by the military alongside mathematician Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) and US Army Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker), linguist Dr Louise Banks (Amy Adams) must assist in translating communications with an alien race known as Heptapods. As mankind scrambles for answers as to why these aliens are here, Banks tries to distinguish between their two distinct forms of language – the Heptapods’ spoken language, which has a free word order, and their written language, which has a complex structure that a single semantic symbol cannot be excluded without changing the entire meaning of a sentence – a vital study to maintain peace with this mysterious race.

The following post is a review of the film only. You can read my review of the book on its own here or a comparison of the film to the book here.

Based on a brilliant short story by Ted Chiang, Arrival isn’t just a story about aliens; its science fiction setting is merely a background to something much bigger.

The film adaptation expands way beyond Chiang’s minimal plot, but it still uses the aliens’ arrival as a means to look at how we evaluate our own lives and being. It’s is not a science fiction story about conflict, action and futuristic technologies, it is about everyday ideas and ways of thinking.

Above everything else, Arrival is an incredibly intelligent and philosophical sci-fi with a compelling narrative that hints to something much deeper throughout. Linking language, maths and physics, Arrival combines two stories – one about aliens and one about humanity – to explore how we perceive our own existence.

The beautiful way that these two stories connect together is the reason why you will feel so overcome by this powerfully engaging story.

Denis Villeneuve is an incredible filmmaker. Arrival looks stunning from start to finish and the score suits his style perfectly. The story is handled incredibly well and Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner lead it brilliantly.

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