This week I went to the cinema to see Arrival, a new science fiction film starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner. Adams plays Louise Banks, a linguistics professor in the US, who is called in by the military when twelve alien spaceships appear on Earth. Louise’s job is to communicate with the aliens so humans can find out why the aliens have appeared. Renner plays a physicist called Ian Donnelly, the scientific expert who collaborates with Louise. I was excited to see the film because I thought that having a female lead character and focusing on communicating with the aliens meant the film might be different from the alien films we are used to which are about alien-human conflict.
The film has some great twists which make it hard to talk about without spoilers! I will say that some of the twists made me gasp out loud in the theatre, and were emotionally very satisfying. At other times the twists made the resolution of the plot a little too easy. I enjoyed the film a lot, particularly the exploration of language and how language reflects and shapes the way we think and experience the world. The film is thoughtful and slow, with lots of beautiful scenery – much of the film is based in Montana.
Adams’ performance is perfect. Her character is a woman who suffers personal tragedy, who makes hard decisions, who is compassionate and who believes fiercely in the power and importance of language and communication. At times she is strong, such as when she argues with US Army Colonel Weber that she needs to meet the aliens to have any hope of understanding them, and at other times vulnerable, for example when she first enters the spaceship and is completely overwhelmed. This vulnerability only makes her determination and strength more impressive as she begins her work translating the aliens’ language.
The film emphasises the importance of communication, not just with the aliens but between different countries. The message that we must trust each other and work together is idealistic but welcome. All in all, I recommend you go to see the film and let me know what you thought of the twists!
Have you seen Arrival? Do you agree with Joanna about the importance of communication?