Arrival is not an ordinary science fiction movie. It does not comply with the general rules of the genre, and when you finish watching it, you can either be mesmerized, or disappointed. Before explaining what I mean, I just want to thank Universal Studios for making such a film a reality, in an era when budget is everything.
Arrival is based on a short story from 1998, called “Story of Your Life“, and given its nature, was expanded for a 2-hour large-scale movie extravaganza. Amy Adams is Louise, a languages expert who is called by the military to try and understand the alien language of the mysterious visitors that landed with 12 giant ships all around the world. She is joined by Ian (Marvel’s Jeremy Renner), a brilliant physicist, and together, they try and find a way to communicate with the aliens and understand they purpose for arriving.
The true strength of this movie, is that it manages not to be an action-packed alien-disaster movie, and still, keep you hooked and invested. But, for some of us, the lack of action and destruction is sad news, since they expect (understandably, of course) those things to happen on the big screen. Our film industry got us used to this, and seeing a new type of alien drama in the cinema is a strange thing.
During the movie, Louise tries to understand the alien language, and by that, absorb their way of thinking, their “culture”. Why? Because simply knowing the dictionary translation of a foreign word is not enough most of the time. I remember, back in elementary school, when I learned English, the moment I realized I know the language was the moment I started thinking in English. Not translating every word in order to get the meaning of a sentence, but understanding an idea, thinking it through. That’s what happens to Louise, and that is what we should take from the movie.
Over the years, we wrongly absorbed the notion that alien movies are action-packed, humor-spiced and fast-pacing. This is not the case. If you want to enjoy this movie, you need to calibrate your thinking to its pace, embrace its deep logic and strong story. If you prefer not to do it, you might not enjoy this movie, but it is a still a recommended one to watch, by my opinion.
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