Arrival: Film Review


This isn’t the first time we have seen alien invasion movies where people try to figure a language or a way to communicate with them, such as Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T., but this is probably the closest and most detailed look at the challenge and it feels refreshing, thanks to brilliant directing from Denis Villeneuve and a wonderful performance by Amy Adams.

Adams plays Dr. Louise Banks, a linguistics lecturer who is called up by the military, led by Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker), to find out what the aliens want. She travels to one of the 12 locations around the world where the “shells” have decided to hover and tries to establish ways to communicate with the seven-legged hand-like creatures called Heptapods with the help of mathematician Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner). During her quest, she has flashes of her daughter Hannah, who passed away from cancer in her teens.

You feel so much anticipation when they go inside the shell and meet the aliens for the first time. It’s a shame their form was revealed so early on. It’s fascinating watching Louise trying to teach them English when they communicate using circular symbols with a splat-style ink effect, but I was always wondering when it was going to go somewhere.

The U.S. team share their findings with those at the other sites in China and Russia, for example. When China discovers something they consider a threat, they cut off their comms and declare war on the aliens, when the best way to tackle the problem is as a unified global team.

Without dropping big spoilers, the film then becomes something else I didn’t expect at all. It becomes less about the aliens and more about Louise and her life. Time travel comes into play, tenses aren’t quite right and the timeline of events is thrown into question. It is not a linear piece of story-telling and it totally baffled me. The game-changing time stuff wasn’t executed perfectly; it felt kinda rushed and messy after such a slow burn before, and I certainly wouldn’t examine it too closely cos it might fall apart.

It’s a head-scratcher no doubt, but it leaves you thinking and talking about it for a long time afterwards. It stays with you, which is clear sign of a damn good (albeit confusing) movie.

Originally seen at the 60th BFI London Film Festival. Released in the U.K. tomorrow


  1. […] Arrival comes to cinemas in November. It is currently showing at the 60th BFI London Film Festival and you can read my review here. […]


  2. […] think it is a straight-forward alien invasion sci-fi, you’d be very wrong. Powerful stuff. Review can be found here. Out […]


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