Arrival, A Spellbinding Story About Communicating With Alien Life Told In The Fourth Dimension



Arrival is based on Ted Chiang’s acclaimed 1988 story, “The Story of Your Life”. The film netted eight nominations, neck to neck with one of the most talked-about films of 2016, Moonlight.

12 alien vessels known as heptapods appear at twelve different locations around the world and it is not promptly clear as to why they are here and what do they want from the humans.

A linguistic professor Louise Banks played by Amy Adams (Big Eyes and American Hustle), a woman who is in the process of mourning is brought upon by the military to see if she can make contact with the aliens and decrypt their language. To find an answer to the big question, Why are they here?

The story is told from Adam’s character point of view, joining in with the theoretical physicist named Ian Donnelly played by Jeremy Renner. As she learns to speak in their language, she began to think like the aliens and keeps having recurring visions of what appear to be “flashbacks” of her daughter.

The audience, were introduced with a number of fluttering flashbacks throughout the film however, it was revealed as the film progresses that the “flashbacks” are actually flashforward.

Adams portrayed a character that effortlessly allow the audience to relate to her vulnerability also contribute to the whole depth of the story. To top it off, her beauty? You just can’t take your eyes off her.

When people hear, “sci-fi” they expect plenty of space battles and thoughtless entertainment but Arrival is nothing like that. It is far, much more than just a storyline about a woman learning a foreign language.

It deals with time, emotions, transcending barriers, existence and language in an unconventional sci-fi way. Forest Whitaker as Colonel Weber is underused here (because he was so good in The Last King of Scotland and Lee Daniel’s The Butler, I was expecting more) but this film is all about communication anyway.


Aliens live with nonlinear times, they communicate through logograms. Pattrice Vermette (Production Designer) wanted the logograms to be circular, indicate how aliens think about time. A logograms is a sign or a written character that depicts a word or phrases. It may seem as intricate the way the aliens display their signs but in truth, it just another normal manifestation of communication.


We learn that communication is the foundation of every human (and nonhuman) relationships, doing that involves both the sender and receiver. It also can be our greatest weakness; the piece of the puzzle we sometimes have omitted.

Nevertheless we are still working on it.

The film progresses slowly as it should, though it may lose some audiences yet they took their time to compose every scene elegantly and made each of it count. They keep bringing out new materials that leave the viewers something to put the pieces together themselves and confronting them with the truth that seem ‘normal’.

The beauty of the film leaves me feeling whelmed that plays around with the heart and mind, it makes you sit and think. The film wants to challenge the viewer’s perception, not just figure out what they say but to understand. Isn’t that what communication is all about?

I am aware that this film isn’t for every eyes to see it but when a movie resonates with you for days after each viewing then I believe it can be considered as a great film.


When Banks asked Donnely at the end of the scene, “If you could see your whole life from start to finish, would you change things?” – I mean, would you?


Article Written by Mia


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