Why are they here?


Taking place after alien crafts land around the world, an expert linguist is recruited by the military to determine whether they come in peace or are a threat.

Title Arrival
Director Denis Villeneuve
Director of Photography Bradford Young
Runtime 1 h 56 min
Certification PG-13
Release Date 10 November 2016
Tagline Why are they here?
IMDb Id tt2543164

Arrival is a thoughtful science fiction film, about as far from “Independence Day” as it is possible to get, though the special effects are impressive in their own way. The basic premise is that aliens have landed around the world in twelve huge spaceships, but their intent is unclear. At intervals the ships open a gate and admit visitors, and the aliens show themselves behind a huge screen, but what do they want?  Are they tourists, explorers or invaders?  The film explores the challenge of how to communicate with a literally alien species, but fortunately linguist Dr Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is on hand at the US landing site, along with cosmologist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner). Together they set about piecing together the puzzle of the alien language, a task being repeated by other scientists at the other eleven landing sites globally. They are overseen by Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker), who is watchable as ever.

The film’s pace is quite drawn out, since there is no immediate “aha” moment – learning to communicate takes months. However as the outside world looks on things become more urgent. The aliens have shown no ill-intent, but not every country is as friendly to UFOs as America, and there is danger that some military types may decide to shoot first and ask questions later, with incalculable consequences (this extra dramatic element was not, incidentally, present in the short story on which the film is based). Without revealing any key plot devices, the film can be seen as an exercise in free will. As one character says: “if you could see your life from end to end, would you change anything?” This kind of intellectual science fiction could easily descend into portentous nonsense, but the director Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Prisoners) does an impressive job of keeping the audience engaged. Overall it works very well, and it is worth pondering a little after you have watched the movie, especially since a key plot element that is clear in the short story is rather glossed over in the movie. If you like your science fiction with a little thought rather than ray guns then Arrival is a film for you.


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