A 2013 sci-fi thriller directed by Denis Villeneuve (M)


Following on from a brief and painful look into the life of linguistics professor Lousie Banks, the main storyline of “Arrival” begins when 12 extraterrestrial spacecraft land in 12 separate locations around the planet. Louise is recruited by the US military to go inside the alien spacecraft and attempt to open communications with the beings inside, working alongside her is a physicist named Ian Donnelly. The aliens, which come to be known as heptapods due to their seven limbs, allow the humans into their spacecraft at regular intervals and interact with them from behind a large glass wall. The heptapods remain shrouded in a white fog and are never completely visible, they communicate with the humans by forming circular figures in what appears to be black ink on the wall between them.

Amy Adams. Image Credit: Paramount Pictures

The lack of common phrases or reference points makes the progress slow for both Louise and Ian as they collaborate as they can with their international counterparts, including the Australians (one of the alien pods is seen in a news briefing to have landed in Western Australia). As time passes, the scientists begin to make some more steady progress, however, the lack of information making it out to the general public causes unrest and then international tensions also rise as nations start to compete to be the first to unlock the secrets the heptapods hold. It is in this increasingly tense atmosphere that Louise and Ian must unlock the secrets before the rising tension leads to a global panic or outright war.


This is a well-crafted movie with some very interesting subjects tackled in new and interesting ways. The portrayal of science in the movie is less corny than in other movies of this type and the realistic feel of the movie is enhanced because of it. For the most part, you do feel like the action which occurs within the story is plausible, especially regarding the political machinations, which help to take the viewer along for the ride. The aspects of social commentary contained in the movie feel spot on too. At times you feel like you are watching a news broadcast of the events unfolding and that if this series of events actually took place sometime, that is pretty much how people would react.

Heptapods ship. Image Credit: Paramount Pictures

The acting is good without being outstanding and the special effects used are subtle enough to be effective in creating a mood without drawing too far away from the story itself. The thing this movie achieves better than others of its type is to deliver a worthwhile payoff at the end. When the movie finishes you are going to want to talk about it with your friends and co-workers. This for me is what sets it apart from the majority of “first contact” films, the ending makes you want to watch the film again from the start, armed with the knowledge of how it ends. This is an excellent and smart sci-fi film, I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Starring:Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner
Available on:ITunes and DVD