The Arrival

So many people had recommended this movie that we finally went to see it. The Arrival may be one of the most cerebral and visionary movies I’ve ever seen.

The summary, from IMDB: “When mysterious spacecraft touch down across the globe, an elite team – led by expert linguist Louise Banks – is brought together to investigate. As mankind teeters on the verge of global war, Banks and the team race against time for answers – and to find them, she will take a chance that could threaten her life, and quite possibly humanity.”

Actually, that summary doesn’t do the film justice. The way the movie is filmed is tricky, brilliant, a red herring in itself. It moves between the present, where Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and a theoretical physicist, Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) are struggling to establish communication with these aliens, while what we’re led to believe is the past, where Banks’s daughter is dying of a rare form of cancer, is also a red herring.

But – and here’s a spoiler – what Banks is seeing is the future. The gift she receives from these aliens is precognition – sensing the future – something we didn’t realize when we went to see the movie. At one point, Banks is remembering something her daughter, Hannah, asked her, and she tells her that her scientist father is better equipped to answer that question. This line is a big clue about the larger picture of what’s happening in the communication with the aliens.

Their language is holistic, non-linear, universal in that it doesn’t perceive time as divided into past, present, future, but as a continuous flow.

The movie is based on a short story by Ted Chiang and the screenwriter’s journey in translating the story to film is fascinating. It took him a decade to get it made.  Instead of pursuing what the studios were demanding – aliens land, big shoot-em-up, humans win – Eric Heisserer followed his own artistic vision and it paid off. This movie is one to savor and see again. And again.

I downloaded the collection of Chiang’s short stories – 15 of them which have won multiple awards – and love the one on which the movie is based. But I think Heisserer took that story and totally transformed it into a masterpiece.


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13 Responses to The Arrival

  1. c.j. says:

    Stephen King wrote THE SHINING. Can’t leave the screen even to go to the bathroom unless you click ‘pause’. It’s that convoluted, yet engrossing. Must see ARRIVAL.
    Sounds intriguing.

  2. DJan says:

    I loved the movie and felt like I understood something about time when I left that had eluded me. I think I’ll have to find those short stories and read them, too. Happy Solstice, dear Trish. And thanks for reminding me about Mercury Retrograde. I’m waiting until it passes to get my new iPhone. 🙂

  3. Darren B says:

    The big reason that Bank’s daughter is named HannaH is because the name is spelled the same way forward as it is backwards, plus the name also means “grace” or “favour” and Louise is grateful for the time she gets to spend with her daughter, even though she already knows what will happen.
    So apart from the time travel theme in the movie, the message is really about living in the moment, or “being here now”, as Ram Dass would say.
    The name Louise means “”renowned fighter”.

  4. Nancy says:

    Such varied and oppositional reviews. This sounds like one of those movies I will wait to come out on I-Tunes and buy. It may need more than one watching. Thanks for the heads up.

  5. lauren raine says:

    I loved the movie, but it was a complex movie. I suspect not everyone figured it out.

  6. This is so strange, the different reviews/impressions people have of this movie. My own review of it is totally opposite: I gave it one star.

    • Rob and Trish says:

      Wow. This IS interesting. I was completely immersed. What did you find objectionable??

      • Darren B says:

        I loved ‘Arrival’ and I have viewed movies in the past like Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’ and ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and hated them first time round, but viewed them again a few years down the track and got them and then loved them, so I can see how people may hate ‘Arrival’ first time round also, but I believe that like a river, you can never step into to a movie the same way twice.
        I’ve seen ‘Arrival’ twice and I bet I could see it another ten times and hind something I missed from viewing it the time before.
        I think this movie is destined to become a classic.