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The Almost Lost Greatest Ability of Humankind: 'Arrival' Review

Hi, I'm Sam, I love movies. My main interests are science fiction and zombie movies. I also enjoy pessimistic and survival films.


Linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is a lonely woman whose academic routine is mixed with images from another moment in her life, in which she raised and loved a daughter until an aggressive cancer snatched her away at a young age. This way, Arrival presents its protagonist in a great way.

Her routine as a university professor changes when twelve extraterrestrial spacecraft appear in 12 different nations of the planet.

Through U.S. Army Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker), Louise is required to lead a team along with physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) whose mission is to decipher a way of understanding and communicating with the visitors.


In a U.S. military camp in Montana, near one of the spacecraft, Louise makes contact with two seven-limbed extraterrestrials that are cordially nicknamed as Abbott and Costello.

It's evident that the reason for the visit goes beyond a mere hostile invasion. The visitors want to communicate something, and much of that message being decoded and delivered depends on the mutual trust and the cooperation among all nations, each one using its own methods in deciphering the alien's motivations.

And that's where the conflict truly starts.


The beautiful Sci-Fi of Arrival is a mere excuse to stealthy approaching other subjects without quickly arousing the cynicism of the viewer.

Arrival sure has some things from its spiritual influences. From Robert Zemeckis' Contact, it has a mysterious sobriety to show new paradigms. From Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the grandiosity of the act of communicating with the unknown. Check out our alien contact movies list for more imaginative stories about meeting the unknown.

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But above all, Arrival is about human connections and how the ego and protocols have negatively mutated what should be a primarily emotional, positive and non-calculating nexus.

Villeneuve's shots are powerful. Nothing shouts better the motif of this movie as the sight of 12 monitors (for each of the nations with an extraterrestrial spacecraft on them) displaying a bright red message of "disconnected," after the distrust and the miscommunication has generated a pessimistic chain reaction.

Jóhann Jóhannsson supports him in a great way. The majestic and historical importance of the actions are perfectly accompanied by a score that emulates the simple patterns of sound communication of the extraterrestrials.


Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker both deliver solid performances, but are completely overshadowed by Amy Adams who fully fulfills the enormous responsibility on both sides of the realities. She is the ambassador of humanity, and her work on the emotional credibility of her scenes is almost perfect.

One of the few shortcomings of Arrival is that, towards the end, Villeneuve wrongly believes that he has an unpredictable twist and treats it as such. That expected twist ends up being a distracting element.

But it matters little. The greatest merit of Denis Villeneuve is to have created an intelligent film without a complex narrative. Arrival is an accomplished film with a pacifist, borderline-naive message in this age where cynicism has almost won the emotional battle. That's truly revolutionary.

Movie Details

Title: Arrival

Release Year: 2016

Director(s): Denis Villeneuve

Actors: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker a.o.

© 2018 Sam Shepards

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