When alien pods descend to Earth, hovering above several spots around the globe, world leaders rush to try to determine the aliens’ intent. Each country has its team of specialists trying to decipher what the aliens are trying to say.
In the United States, Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) enlists Louise Banks (Amy Adams), a linguistics expert, to become part of her team. Along with physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), Louise and a crew of military specialists ascend into the pod to meet with the seven-legged aliens they call heptapods.
As the heptapods flash series after series of symbols in front of the humans, Louise realizes it is their written language. Louise uses a series of techniques to get the heptapods to communicate specific words or concepts. She records their responses and begins studying them. Once she has learned the basics of their writings, she begins communicating with them in their language and interpreting their responses, allowing them to have real-time conversations.
While other teams misinterpret the message from the aliens, Louise and Ian discover what the heptapods are trying to tell them. They must convince the other teams of the real message before an interplanetary incident occurs.
Arrival is a more cerebral take on the alien invasion film. Instead of a full-on attack by the aliens, they are trying to convey a message to us. It feels more like Contact or Interstellar than, say, Independence Day. Personally, I prefer the Independence Day aliens.
Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner offer acceptable performances as the specialists they portray. They are likely doing the best they can with the material provided. There isn’t much for anyone to do in this film, given that most of it is learning to read and write an alien language. That said, even with the interactions they have, I don’t feel much chemistry between their characters.
The story doesn’t offer much in my opinion. Too much time is spent showing the team going into the pod. And they show the same long, drawn out sequence every time they enter the pod, dragging the film out to a long 2 hour run time. Other than that, the majority of the time is spent showing and decoding the alien language, with a confusing message in the end.
Along with Manchester by the Sea, Arrival is getting a lot of awards buzz that I just don’t understand. The pace is slow. The story does little for me. The acting is okay, but nothing exceptional. I found the film to be a bit boring. If aliens are descending on Earth, I want lots of action and explosions. Not a lesson in alien grammar and a message of peace. If you prefer humans and aliens learning to work together, you will probably enjoy this film. Arrival is one of those movies you either love or you hate. I seem to be in the minority in this case. While I wouldn’t say I “hate” it, I did not enjoy it at all. I would recommend waiting to rent this one, if you see it at all.