Arrival is a high-concept science fiction movie, aiming to take its place among movies like 2001, Bladerunner, and Moon. I think it mostly succeeds. Twelve gravity-defying oblong things from outer space land at various places across the globe. They are mysteriously non-communicative. But every so many hours a door opens up in them and they admit a few humans in. The bulk of the movie focuses themes traditionally known as “first contact.” How do you establish a means of communication with aliens that are so far advanced, you don’t really have a common frame of reference?
The movie focuses on linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) as she tries to establish some means of communication with the aliens and he tries to figure out how the aliens command gravity. As you might expect, mistakes are made, miscommunications are made, with unspeakably dangerous consequences.
It’s interesting to see how Banks manages her work communicating with aliens. It’s kind of a talky movie, lots of poignant looks and rhetorical questions. But that doesn’t mean the movie can’t have its surprising moments. It does, in a very satisfying way. It’s not the latest superhero action popcorn movie, but it’s very engaging.