The Dose: New ‘Arrival’ movie urges heavy discussions

The Dose: New ‘Arrival’ movie urges heavy discussions

The Dose: New ‘Arrival’ movie urges heavy discussions
November 14
17:27 2016

By Amanda Dycus

This past weekend, I tried to convince friends and family that “Arrival” is not a movie about aliens.

It’s not very much like the novella it’s based on either, which relies heavily on science to make its points.

For a while, this movie has been hyped as masterful science fiction from talented filmmaker Denis Villeneuve (“Sicario,” “Prisoners”) and deservedly so. It also manages to be political, ideological and emotional for two hours straight.

Villeneuve and Eric Heisserer, the film’s screenwriter, show viewers raw science fiction that blockbusters like “Independence Day” and “Pacific Rim” cannot. It transforms the roots of ideas into an exposé of the ways humanity can excel and fall short.

In “Arrival,” the narrative isn’t about the size of our weapons or how long they can be used – it’s simply about how well we can talk to each other.

The story begins before the aliens’ arrival, introducing Dr. Louise Banks and immediately establishing a reason to sympathize with her. Amy Adams portrays her flawlessly.

Although Dr. Banks studies languages professionally, Adams doesn’t need breathless passages of dialogue to be resonant. The actress is subtle and understated, just as Dr. Banks is with the aliens she’s working with. It is her job to learn their purpose for being earthbound, but as she explains repeatedly to Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker), there are certain steps to be taken before identifying their reasons.

Whitaker and Michael Stuhlbarg play the exasperated government suits quite well, but it’s Jeremy Renner as the lead scientist who truly complements Adams. His character, Ian Donnelly, works alongside Banks to study the extraterrestrials, attempting to teach them algebra and physics.

As their studies progress, the world starts to fall apart. The aliens spend months on Earth’s surface and foreign governments grow frustrated. All of the officials want to know why the aliens are inhabiting the Earth. While the sites communicate with each other initially, time goes on and alliances go sour.

Villeneuve and Heisserer have made an extremely poignant allegory for our current state of affairs, as authoritative characters show the same minimal logic that our elected officials project.

This film takes the standard alien invasion premise and inverses it to ask: “If aliens come, will humanity be too ignorant to handle them?”

“Arrival” questions audiences through the representation of different ideologies, showing flashbacks and highlighting our nation’s stubbornness. Villeneuve’s military is paranoid and the aliens’ complacency fuels numerous philosophical debates.

While the entire movie is visually beautiful, it reaches a plateau in the middle where not much happens. Once Banks starts talking again, and her dreams start making sense, the film revs up into an exciting third act.

You’ll leave “Arrival” with questions and a full heart. Perhaps it’s cheesy to say, but the wide-eyed look I exchanged with my movie-going partner said everything we were both thinking.

Without language required: this movie is brilliant. It’s all about communication and the lack of it during necessary times. It’s about grief and moving forward in spite of it. It’s about the way our political systems fail us because they are run by humans and we fail so often. Aliens are merely the cherry on top.

Featured Image: Paramount Pictures’ official logo of “Arrival.” Wikimedia Commons

About Author

Preston Mitchell

Preston Mitchell

Preston served as the Opinion Editor of the North Texas Daily from July 2016 to July 2017, and is a UNT graduate of integrative studies.

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