I want you to take a moment and think of all the alien invasion movies you have seen over the years. I’m certain the list includes some of the following: “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, “War of the Worlds”; “Signs”, “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, and of course “Independence Day”. Adding to the list of alien invasion films is the new release “Arrival” featuring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner. In this film, twelve extraterrestrial spacecraft, named “Shells” buy the United States military, have touched down across the Earth at varying locations. As usual the citizens of Earth have no idea why the mysterious crafts have appeared, so the military enlists the help of linguist and college professor Louise Banks (Adams) in an attempt to communicate with the visitors. Banks is taken to the site in Montana (the lone U.S. location of the Shells) where she is joined by physicist Ian Donnelly ( Renner) and US Army Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker).
The group are soon meeting with the inhabitants of the Shell, who are best described as cephalopod- like creatures, but they look large black octopi to me. They even “shoot out” a black liquid as their form of communication. As the U.S. team and the rest of the world works to communicate with the aliens, China the first country to cave in and threaten the invaders with harm. Don’t we ever learn in these types of movies? Thankfully, Banks and Donnelly have both worked diligently to uncover exactly what the aliens want from us. I will not say in this article what the aliens want, but it is surprising.
During the course of the film, including the very beginning, we learn some revealing facts about Banks, including a plot twist involving her daughter. This film is very deep in thoughts and ideas, and is closer in tone to the aforementioned “Close Encounters” than “ID4”. I really loved the fact a female character is the savior of the day and Banks proves you don’t always need weapons to ward off the unknown. The plot twist in this film is one I never saw coming and really added to the overall effect of the story line.
The actors are all wonderful, and Adams is very convincing in her role and carries the film on her shoulder even when competing with awesome special effects. Renner makes for a fine co-star, even though he is often overshadowed by Adams and the stunning visuals. If you enjoy films of this genre, I warn you to take heed: there are no exploding buildings, no quips between actors while aliens are being shot, and no one is kidnapped by the aliens. If you have no problem with the aforementioned not being a part of this film, then you should give “Arrival” a try for a cerebral alien experience.
(Rated PG-13) 3 aliens (out of 4)