Arrival delivers

In a CNN meets Nietzsche sci-fi tale, Arrival chronicles a realistic alien encounter and walks us through a thought provoking exploration of human existence that leaves us questioning the nature of unity.

Based on Ted Chiang's Story of Your Life, but the brilliant script by Eric Heisserer brings together linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams – Julie & Julia) and theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner – The Hurt Locker) as academics conscripted by the U.S. Army to find out the intentions of mysterious aliens.

The film opens with a series of flashbacks detailing a different kind of arrival – the birth of Louise’s baby girl.

We witness scenes that chronicle the girl’s growth into teenage years as well as the horrible news that she has an incurable disease that leads to her death. 

This storytelling takes place in a few short minutes, but flashbacks pervade the action throughout the film.

When 12 alien ships spontaneously appear around the globe, the race is on to determine the extra-terrestrials' intentions. Are they friendly? Hostile? Simply curious? 

Humanity’s next steps depend on the answer to this question and without solid communication and understanding, those next steps are at a global stand-still.

Given her extraordinary linguistics knowledge, Louise is whisked away to rural Montana by an army helicopter to decipher the alien language and potentially save the day.

The military has set up an operations camp just beneath the huge, hovering black alien ship complete with satellite feeds that connect them with the other military bases positioned at 11 sites around the world.

Every country is making an attempt to communicate, but they are reluctant to tell each other what they have learned lest that information be used against them should things turn sideways.

Every eighteen hours, a door opens at the base of the alien ship and people are able to enter. 

Accompanied by soldiers and other technicians, Louise and Ian enter the spaceship. Once inside, however, gravity changes and the plane shifts 90 degrees, such that the shaft is now a corridor and they are walking on the walls. 

The scene is fascinating and disorienting at the same time. It is a metaphor for how our own view of reality, time and space is about to be turned on its ear.

The aliens appear behind a huge screen and it is through this screen that most of their interaction occurs. They look as different from us as you could imagine – giant squid-like heptapods (seven arms). 

Prior efforts at verbal communication had been unsuccessful, but written language proves more promising as Louise is able to establish the beginnings of real communication. 

From their tentacles, the aliens emit swirling circles of inky gas, each one of them—as Louise determines—being a fully formed thought with neither beginning nor end.

With the clock ticking and the risk of a global war with the aliens looming, Louise finds herself on the precipice of a communications breakthrough that could not only have profound implications for the alien encounter but might also affect her future.

This is from start to finish, Amy Adams’ film. At all times, she plays Louise with an integrity and sincerity that should garner her an Oscar nomination.

The final scenes of Arrival open up to some of the bigger ideas of life that I won’t spoil here, but this is a film that will simultaneously challenge viewers and provoke dialogue long after the end credits have finished. 

Beautiful cinematography by Bradford Young (Selma) provides flat, light-blue tones when action involves the present day, but is juxtaposed with lush, warm colours when action happens in flashbacks.

The score by Jóhann Jóhannsson is rich and moving with its low horns booming menacingly, almost like the alien voices themselves.

Arrival is a film that forces viewers to reconsider that which makes us truly human, and the impact of grief on that timeline of existence.

It is a film that delivers the most complete movie going experience of the year and is one I highly recommend.

I give this film a whopping 5 out of 5 hearts.

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About the Author

Kim Foreman-Rhindress is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City and London Western Conservatory of music for piano and voice. 

Kim has been performing in theatre and film for over 30 years in Canada, NYC, Palm Beach, Los Angeles, and the Netherlands. She has written several plays which have been produced in Canada and the U.S., and is the founder of Kelowna Voice Lab - helping people find their voice, be it singing or acting. 

A working musician, she performs regularly in Kelowna with her husband, Jim Rhindress, in an acoustic duo Smitten, and with her vintage trio Kitsch 'n Sync.  

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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