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The Arrival Review!

Jondee here at the Shell (I think there is a Ghost somewhere in here),


The Arrival takes it’s time. Literally. I feel like two weeks have passed and nodded off twice at the beginning of the movie. It picks up when we finally see the aliens called Heptapods for their seven appendages. This is not the alien contact movie from 1996 starring Charlie Sheen. This film starts out with seeing the ceiling of a house and then Amy Adams staring out of the window, she plays linguist Louise Banks. The film is directed by Denis Villeneuve who directed last year’s Sicario. The screenplay is by Eric Heisserer who wrote this year’s Lights Out. It was based on the short story, “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang from the Starlight 2 collection in 1998. She sees images of her daughter, Hannah (Abigail Pniowsky) whom she sees from birth to 12 years old (Julia Scarlett Dan). There is no image of her husband, I suspected that this was because of a divorce, or other problem. Louise heads to her university to give her lesson on Portuguese, students are gathered around a tv screen, and there are only a few at the lecture hall. Adams is an extremely talented actress, but as a character, we really don’t get her mastery of languages through casual knowledge or speaking. One of her students has her turn on a tv to see the Arrival. Twelve, black ships shaped like shells have taken sites around the world. She is interviewed at her office by Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker who will be in a film with Rogue in the title later this year). He mentions that her knowledge of Farsi has already granted her top secret clearance and plays her a recording of Heptapod’s language.


Weber finds that she is the best qualified and lands a helicopter to take her to the landing site in Montana. She is joined by theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner). This takes place over several months with the government wanting results especially with the chaos of fearful citizens and other countries ready at the trigger including General Shang (Tzi Ma, he was Consul Han in the Rush Hour films) in China. Louise, Ian, and Colonel Weber enter the Shell and face the barrier with mists hiding the Heptapods. They look like a wrist with two extra bony fingers. It reminds me of the aliens in Gareth Edwards’ Monsters (2010). The Heptapods are named and the duo continue their work. Louise finds that she needs to establish communication through a board writing “Human.” The Heptapods responds by extending an appendage which splits apart like a tentacle sending out black ink that swirls in a circular pattern. Ian nicknames them Abbott and Costello. Colonel Weber questions all of her decisions. Louise tries to decode their language. She finds that the pattern conveys complex information, a single image containing a sentence of information. The other authority on the makeshift base is Agent Halpern played by Michael Stuhlbarg who is also Dr. Nicodemus West in Doctor Strange. He is worried about the world’s reaction to the Heptapods. Louise takes the risk of removing her hazmat suit and trying to communicate with them. The Heptapod extends it’s tentacled appendage and Louise tries to write in their language. A C4 explosive was planted in the room, the Heptapod points at it, and the duo are thrown back as it explodes. She recovers from her concussion and finds that the Shell has risen into the sky. China, through Shang, gives an ultimatum for the Heptapods to leave or will attack it along with it’s allies. Tension runs high as Louise has to piece together the images of her daughter and also the mystery of the language and the Heptapods’ intent. Alien first contact and it’s implications was best handled in Contact (1997) based on the Carl Sagan novel. The Arrival is a mature look at extraterrestrial contact, but needs to shortened or the pace quickened. Three Shells out of Five!