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Arrival Review: Sci-Fi Movies

Updated on March 1, 2017
Arrival (2016) poster
Arrival (2016) poster
Amy Adams (Louise Banks)
Amy Adams (Louise Banks)
Amy Adams (Louise Banks)
Amy Adams (Louise Banks)


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

Arrival is a science fiction drama film based on the short story "Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang. It was directed by Denis Villeneuve and adapted by Eric Heisserer. The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September 2016 and released worldwide later that year. At the 89th Academy Awards, the film was nominated and won for "Best Sound Editing." The film stars Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker.


The movie's plot is superbly told in a non-linear fashion. The non-linearity allows the plot to have flash forwards and flashbacks. However, what makes the film captivating is not truly knowing how the events are taking place. Through the acts, the film slowly unravels and brings to the surface the events of the past, present, and future. In spite of how this sounds, the film does is not sluggish. And when the plots blend together at times, fortunately it does not lead to any confusion.

The story puts a twist on the "us against them" narrative and instead turns the film into a "everyone against everyone." The movie is about trust amongst humanity. And our trust amongst strangers. Don't expect gun fire or explosions caused by the crashing of ships against a force field. Thankfully, the film is a lot more nuanced than that.


The characters in the film were valuable to the success of the plot. Amy Adam's character Louise Banks is a highly, intelligent linguist who works as a professor teaching college students. Louise's focuses on her career to distract her from her otherwise lonely life. As for her personality, it isn't too interesting but during her analyst work she becomes a fiery and determined woman who cannot be stopped.

Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner's) character is a smart, logistic physicist who believes in science as an explanation for everything. He works with Louise in order to decipher the alien's strange method of communication. He shares the same determination of Louise but with a harder, analytical outlook. Most of the film's scientific explanations come from his dialogue.

Another significant part of the film comes from how humanity deals with the extraterrestrial visitors. The countries all have their own way of gathering intelligence from the aliens. However, they are reluctant to share the information with each other. The film explores the human race and how far we can come if we all worked together.


No Sci-Fi film would be complete without its fair share of aliens. The alien's physically are simplistic and enigmatic. The language they speak in is deep in symbolism. Their large hands shoot out circular, ink blots that are related to time. The alien's features are never prominently displayed. However, it is not needed since the main focus of the film is not just on the aliens—it's also focused on humanity and its response to the alien visitors.

Amy Adams (Louise Banks)
Amy Adams (Louise Banks)

Best Sound Editing

The sound effects featured in the film is deep and layered. When the ship lands or moves, there are deep, rich bass whoop, whoop, whoop sounds. When the aliens communicate, there is a loud, resonate sound which sound like a loud truck horn. One of my favorite scenes include Louise Banks inside one of the alien ships. The sound is vacuumed—like talking underwater. The sound mixing in the scene is intense and great.


Arrival is a science fiction film that isn't afraid to be different. For once. the focus is on the characters and the plot—not just the aliens. The movie finds a great balance between suspense and plot progression that keeps the viewer engaged. Nonetheless, the story is beautiful and poetic. The soundtrack is loud, claustrophobic, and filled with anxiety. The performances in the film are outstanding and Amy Adams once again delivers in the role given to her. Storytelling is the film's strongest aspect. Overall, the best thing about Arrival is the subtle way that the film blends the two genres of science fiction and drama together.

Arrival is on Blu-ray/DVD, Amazon, and ITunes.

5 stars for Arrival


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