Arrival: What Happens When You Decode An Extraterrestrial Language

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If you've never seen Arrival and you like watching sci-fi and alien related shows then stop reading right now and watch it first. Don't read any reviews or summaries, etc. Just watch it first. And yes you can watch the trailer, it's quite harmless. 

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

But of course first thing's first... Let's start with the most important cast members to watch.


(Screencapped image by ArtGirl, credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment via YouTube)



♦ The Cast ♦

Amy Adams plays Louise Banks

She is a linguist and a university professor who cracks the code to the alien language.


Jeremy Renner plays Ian Donnelly

The physicist who is also tasked to find out why the aliens are on Earth.


Forest Whitaker plays Colonel G.T. Weber

The US Soldier in charge of Louise and Ian's language decoding operation.


Tzi Ma plays General Shang

A pivotal Chinese leader with an unexpected part in the story. 




♦ The Trailer ♦

Watch the unassuming trailer below.

(Video credit: Denis_Villeneuve via Bitlanders)




♦ Synopsis ♦

Arrival opens with scenes of Louise and her daughter. The child grows into her teens but unfortunately passes away due to a disease. We then see Louise as a university professor who teaches language. She comes into a classroom with less than ten students while the world seemed preoccupied with something. They eventually find out alien ships have landed on Earth. Classes got dismissed and people were sent home.

jeremy_renner(Screencapped image by ArtGirl, credit: Denis Villeneuve via Bitlanders)


The next day she went back to work but no one was around. She went to her office and watched some news when suddenly Col. Weber came around to request her translation services again. The job wasn't offered to her immediately but later that night she was escorted from her home to the alien landing site. She was flown there via helicopter, the same as Ian, the physicist who would be working with her on the project.

Upon arriving at the military camp site, they were briefed some more on what they were going to do. The two were told they need to find out why the aliens are on Earth. Both were then brought along into the ship. The first time they got into the otherworldly spacecraft was like walking upside down on another planet. They had to go into the ship's tunnel wearing protective suits.

alien_movie(Screencapped image by ArtGirl, credit: Denis Villeneuve via Bitlanders)


Finally they get to meet the planetary visitors behind a thick glass. At first Louise could not figure out how to translate the sounds they were making. Suddenly she began having visions of a little girl. During the course of their work, each vision helped her along to determine the best way to communicate with the aliens. They also came up with a name for them: heptapods. Ian gives the aliens their own nicknames too.

Several tense situations arose while they all worked on decoding the unearthly script. Communication with other countries that also had alien ships ceased after they were able to decipher the  giant creatures' purpose.

arrival(Screencapped image by ArtGirl, credit: Denis Villeneuve via Bitlanders)


In the end she was able to clear things up with the aliens. She was also able to determine that the girl she is always together with in her visions is her daughter. Learning the alien language made her see things differently. Her mind can now see far in the future. Because of this, she was also able to make the Chinese leader and other nations cooperate with each other.

Finally, she and the entire translating teams successfully achieved their goal. And then she realizes, she now knows her entire life story. The ending circles back to the beginning of the film.





♦ ArtGirl's Review ♦

This movie's wow factor does not lie in any digitally complex imagery like Inception. Nothing so very out of this world is here too except for the aliens and their language yet this Hollywood movie is one of the best ones in 2016. This just goes to show that with a superb storyline and expert direction, one does not need hundreds of millions of dollars to produce a blockbuster.


◙ Characters & Story

To say that I've seen it all clearly does not give justice to the movie. Arrival is very fresh and intriguing. It's not boring or too serious at all. It is mind engaging at most.

I've never seen Interstellar nor Gravity so there's no point trying to compare this to those two preceding space/extraterrestrial films. I only watched the trailer and didn't try to read anything about it before watching the movie. Out of the four movies Micky tasked us to write, this was the only one that piqued my interest. I've seen the Star Wars one and I'd never watch Beauty and the Beast because I love the movie animation. Tully seems too heavy to watch so my love for sci-fi and out of this world things won. 

Surprisingly, Arrival didn't even disappoint me. Who would have thought unearthly beings, complex mathematics/science, language and art mixed together in one movie would be such an excellent combination?

From the intro to the meetings with the heptapods in their ship, I was in suspense. I was thinking, "Oh what an adventure that would be, to even be able to see alien beings and space ships up close." Wow. Of course I'm sure it would be scary but I'm more curious than scared, especially since they didn't seem hostile.

2016_sci_fi_film(Screencapped image by ArtGirl, credit: Denis_Villeneuve via Bitlanders)


I'm very happy the writers didn't make it into another apocalypse movie. That plot is already too cliche these days. But wait I'm still talking about the first part of the film.

The way they narrated the storyline is almost very "secretive". Although there were already confusing hints along the way, you won't even think of the possibility of it being on a very different timeline while watching it. I mean, the intro kind of make us think it's not part of the future but it actually is. Oh non-linear movies can truly blow our minds. Haha. 

I remember watching Fight Club and it completely blew me away near the end too. Arrival is not an action movie or have anything to do with mental illness but it is another kind of thinking man's movie. It's a slow burn kind of thing with finally a romantic angle and a big impact at the end. 

It kind of breaks my heart thinking about Louise's question when everything was over. It is the unexpected movie clincher.

If you could see your whole life from start to finish, would you change things?

Whew. Take a moment to take that in. What I admire the most is she continued to live her life bravely knowing what's going to happen in the end. It seems like she chose not to change anything at all. 

best_movie_of_2016(Screencapped image by ArtGirl, credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment via YouTube)


It's so fantastic like The Butterfly Effect where the lead character get black outs in different timelines only for his mind to travel to the past or the future him. Or The Time Traveller's Wife where the protagonist physically ends up in different places at different times. The concept of time being non-linear is just plain fascinating and the director clearly maneuvered it expertly. Why not, when he partly worked on and developed the final script.

Arrival surprisingly made me cry almost at the end of the story! I was like, "WHAT? Huhuhu." It's like Toy Story 3 all over again. First it made me feel all squishy near the last part and then they threw in the question. Boom! 

Oh I know I'm not the only one who cried at how it ended. There are online posts from 2016 (even from men!) saying how it made them cry at the final scenes up to the end credits too. Even Jeremy Renner and Amy Adams cried after watching it! That's how great movies should be made, with unexpected and almost hidden twists and turns. Those who do not understand will wonder what makes the movie so amazing. We each have our own likes and dislikes but too bad if one cannot appreciate Arrival.

extraterrestrial_language_film(Screencapped image by ArtGirl, credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment via YouTube)


The character background stories are very well planned and executed amazingly on screen. It has to be, in order for us to make sense and be in awe of it all. The premise is pretty simple if you think about it but it's always the devil in the details. It's the little things that matter the most in everything.

They deftly made us viewers think what we would naturally think when in fact it's not what we really think. I mean, they kind of mixed the timelines together. Who wouldn't be befuddled by that when you're focused on finding out about the alien messages?

I haven't read the story this film is based on so kudos to everyone who made it into a film. They did a terrific job with this one. I can't praise the scriptwriters and director enough. Everyone did an awesome job in this movie.

The story is partly about how it can both be a blessing and a burden to know what will happen in the future. As for the women empowerment theme, Arrival can serve as a reminder to women that we are always the gentler force that can help stop fights or wars. It's about a woman's journey to learn an alien language, be entrusted with the world and the heptapods' future and be at the forefront of possible historical and scientific discoveries we can only dream of for now. That's a bigger responsibility than just being responsible for ourselves and our immediate family's lives. Now that's something we should all think about.



◙ Acting

Frankly you wouldn't care about how anyone is acting because they "weren't". They were perfectly in character. There's not much action, drama or lovey-dovey scenes and it's still okay. There's no need for it because we're all glued to what each of the characters do in those situations. It's all about work, communication and unity.  

You would even consider the possibility of everything really happening given an "alien invasion" scenario: How people can be stubborn and prone to always think negatively and be on offense. How people react differently to certain mind-boggling situations. How lucky she is to be the one to primarily break the language barrier and then unite nations. Oh wow.


(Screencapped image by ArtGirl, credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment via YouTube)


The casting is just perfect. Both Amy and Jeremy's characters didn't look like a likely couple in the beginning but you would see why they would eventually fall for each other. They both have enough chemistry after everything they experienced. Sapiosexuals anyone?  

Plus the scene of Louise's fascinating interaction with the Chinese general was priceless. Just perfect. :)



◙ Cinematography, Production Design & Music

No fancy costumes or ultra high tech gears and advanced machinery here folks. Everything is all very normal and close to nature and I love it. Their natural and city backdrops are just perfect.

movie_about_alien_language(Screencapped image by ArtGirl, credit: Denis Villeneuve via Bitlanders)


I'm not a mountain or plains lover but there's just something about the greens and wide open space that make me love their setting. And the ingenuity of the really simple UFO shape somehow makes it not so weird being in such a landscape.

And Louise's house near a body of water... Well now, that looks like an ideal home to me. Actually, I like how everything  looks simple and quiet except for the situation they are in.

The aliens though, they almost seemed funny to me. I mean, really? Aliens that initially look like dark, upright, giant seven-fingered hands mixed with facehugger  Xenomorphs? And it "writes" using its own squid-like "ink" from a "starfish" fingertip? Hmmm. Let's just focus on the extraterrestrial language shall we. story_of_your_life_adaptation

(Screencapped image by ArtGirl, credit: Denis Villeneuve via Bitlanders)


The movie doesn't need flashy CGI at all. Just the quite intriguing circular strokes is enough. What's fascinating and the highlight of the movie is the artistic alien script that needs deciphering. 

I'm not into learning Chinese,  Arabic or Thai so they all look alien to me too. I can read a bit of basic Japanese and Korean letters so somehow those don't seem too weird at all. Instead, those look interesting to me. In the same sense, the heptapod written language looks beautiful even with its circular make up. Each word and sentence looks like an artistic circular brush stroke/splatter that looks very fun to decode. As an artist admiring a fellow artist's work, I can only look at the created alien visual language with fascination. 

As for the music and heptapod voices, Arrival sounds almost as unique as it's visuals. Although I read the soundtrack is based on someone else's work, it still ellicits the right amount of emotions from the viewers.



◙ Rating

Overall, there's nothing that is stopping me from giving this movie a perfect 10 out of 10 stars. Yes it has  its flaws but it's still an amazing movie. It's not visually at par with Inception or messy like Fight Club but in it's quiet excellence, it defeats all the other alien sci-fi movies I've seen so far. 

Both Manny The Movie Guy and I agree on it being amazing. Haha. It's a great movie. If you're into the metaphysical, fantasy and sci-fi things then this is one film you shouldn't miss.

(Video credit: Mannythemovieguy via Bitlanders


How about you? What do you think of Arrival? Share your thoughts in the comments! :)




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