Fish and Cherries Productions

Creative content from a mad mind.


Reel Snippet – Arrival


Summary: The world is suddenly shaken as twelve alien crafts appear on Earth and park above various locations around the globe. General GT Weber (Forest Whitaker) taps linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and military theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) to go to the ship positioned in Montana to help overcome the language barrier. The aliens, aptly named heptapods, communicate through visual glyphs with only marginal differences, so Louise and Ian have to work around the clock in conjunction with the eleven other sites trying their own communication attempts. The question is: do the heptapods come in peace or this an act of aggression… and will the translators be able to tell the difference?

Review: Arrival is, hands down, one of the best science fiction movies I’ve ever seen, at least involving aliens. Most sci-fi flicks tend to become action movies and explosion fests in the end, even the smart ones like Star Trek or District 9 (and let’s me get this straight, I adore District 9). Not this one; it remains cerebral all the way through while still delivering a thrilling and tense conclusion. Never before has a plot about overcoming communication barriers brought me to the edge of my seat.

One of the most creative and original things about this movie are the aliens themselves. We’ve seen a lot of different types of extraterrestrials since they first graced cinema in 1950 with Rocketship X-M. The heptapods, however, may be the most alien aliens to come from the stars onto the silver screen. They look like a cross between squids and human hands with no face to speak of and their way of communicating and thinking, which the majority of this movies is spent trying to overcome, is so bizarre and unheard of, I could actually believe this is an entirely different species.

More than anything, this strikes me as an example of how to write a female-centered story well. There’s no gender struggle crammed in there to distract from the plot nor does Louise have to pick up a gun and mow down legions of bad guys to be successful. Everyone in this movie treats her with respect and the only hangups come from the fact that she’s not part of the military chain of command, a struggle shared by Ian. Moreover, she isn’t the only one with valid points to make in a room full of meatheaded phalluses; everyone has something to contribute to the solution. She winds up being right in the end because she’s the main character, a story device that exists completely separate from gender. In other words, take notes Hollywood.

I have a hard time believing that I’ll find a movie as good as Arrival before the year is done, but I’ve been surprised before. It knows how to be intense without action scenes, it thoroughly deconstructs societal views on competition and the use of power, and has a twist so brilliant my head is still turning. As much as I love District 9, it has its flaws and left quite a few people grumbling about it. I can’t see the same thing happening here. That’s right, I’m going to go as far as to say that this has taken the top spot of the best “serious sci-fi” movies and I recommend everyone gets to the theaters to see it.

Fun Tidbit: In the climax, Louise and a Chinese General exchange a Chinese phrase that isn’t subtitled. It translates as such: “In war, there are no winners, only widows.”

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