I was initially hesitant to watch Arrival because I’m not typically a big fan of sci-fi or alien invasion movies. Those closest to me know how easily I scare and on this day, I didn’t have any friends who could offer their arm for me to squeeze for protection in the dark theatre. However, upon the recommendation of a trusted friend (who promised me more than I expected from the trailers) I set off on a cold and snowy Sunday afternoon to escape into another world.
I am so thankful I did! I truly loved this movie from beginning to end. I was instantly hooked when we get introduced to Louise, a world-renowned linguist, played by the always amazing Amy Adams. I first fell in love with Amy when she played the lost princess, Giselle, in Enchanted and have been amazed at her breadth and depth with every new appearance she makes.
Louise first appears as a loving and devoted mother in the opening scenes that quickly flash through the birth, brief life, and tragic loss of her daughter. Louise is rightfully devastated by the fatal diagnosis and loss of her daughter. It is in this brief opening vignette that we also get a sense of her calm intellect and dedication to her work as she precariously balances the life of a loving, working mom. I immediately connected to her character and could sense the grief she carried throughout the duration of the movie.
Next, we get a sneak peek into Louise’s life as a university professor. Except on this day, her students are distracted by all the media surrounding the arrival of 12 mysterious shells, suspected to be from outer space. As the university (and just about everywhere else) evacuates, we get a sense of Louise’s stoic nature as she calmly goes about her usual routine while uncertainty and chaos are surrounding her as everyone on earth grapples with the fear and anxiety produced by the arrival of the shells.
Next, the military shows up via helicopter in the middle of the night (apparently Louise has security clearance from a previous assignment) to whisk her off to work with a scientist named Ian (Jeremy Renner) to make contact with the aliens inside the shells to find out why they arrived and what they want. The inhabitants of the shells look like massive octopi with seven tentacles and are eventually called “Heptapods”. Louise and Ian must battle their own fears and insecurities (and mild mutual attraction) to break down communication barriers with the Heptapods. We are invited to grapple with the challenges of communication and the nuances of the English language under the mentorship of our heroine. Similar initiatives to decipher their complicated language and make meaning of their arrival are occurring at the other locations in the world, and it is a race to find out the truth before another nation takes violent action based on a perceived threat.
And I’m not sure what else I can say about the plot without giving away all the best parts. I will say that I loved the pacing throughout the entire movie. There are no explosions, chaotic action scenes, or ‘make you jump out of your seat’ scary moments to keep you engaged. There were no abstract or non-sensical plot points to help tie the story together. This really was storytelling and movie making as a masterpiece of fine art.
Also, the audio backdrop for this movie was so much more than a soundtrack… it was truly a soundscape! To create this magic, director Denis Villeneuve (of Incendies Fame) paired up once again with composer Johann Johannsson (Theory of Everything) after previously partnering for Prisoners and Scario. It was the type of soundtrack that supported the cinematography and storytelling so beautifully and completely that I would watch the movie again just so I could listen to the soundtrack and re-appreciate how amazing it was.
I won’t hint at the thought-provoking twist ending here, because I want you to enjoy its full effect when you go see Arrival for yourself. Enjoy contemplating vulnerability, communication, personal risk, trust, destiny, and perception.
Amy Kellestine is an educator, engineer, Arati life coach and entrepreneur living in Edmonton, Alberta. She spends her free time camping, gardening, and volunteering for causes such as Cystic Fibrosis and nature conservation. She is a devoted mother, who is passionate about helping others and writing.