How many movies about alien invasions have you seen? How many battles for the survival of humanity you have encountered? Of, well, frankly speaking, aliens in the movies are meant to put the humans under lethal threat, so when you see them arriving and just hanging above in their oblong egg-shaped spaceship without doing any harm, you still wait for a guile.
But what if there's no actual threat and they just came to convey a certain message? And how are you going to decipher what they're saying or - better - blowing in black smoky circles? Arrival directed by Denis Villeneuve applies a different approach. No crazy handsome guy ready to spear his life to save the Earth is called on duty this time. The mission is passed on to the eyes and ears of the professor of linguistics Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams).
Why her? Because she has helped US intelligence before knowing the Mandarin. But what her knowledge of a number of human languages is worth in communication with those coming from outer space? However, Louise agrees to help and travels to a military base located just below the resting spaceship. Soon we find out that she's not alone in the world to attempt contacting the newcomers. There are twelve spaceships all around the globe, including the territories of Russia and China, and the professionals out there are also trying to get out the information, though none of the countries is willing to share its findings with the others.
During the first encounter with the aliens inside their spaceship, though blocked by a transparent wall, Louise succeeds to establish a line of communication. She shows them the words written on a rectangular white board and the two tree-and-octopus shaped creatures respond by spraying black circles from the end of one of the tentacles. It's a pity there's no way to perceive how Louise manages to transform all this into English, as the movie just skips elaborating on the topic.
While struggling to understand the message Louise is haunted by flashbacks of her personal life. But are they really the flashbacks? Those moments enhanced by the music of Jóhann Jóhannsson determine the overall mood of the movie. Sadness. This is what keeps penetrating your heart and mind, even at the very end.
As usual, the military people don't have the patience and flexible minds as the linguists. They take orders without hesitation and immediately the world is preparing for the war. The second part of the movie brakes the pace and turns into a non-credible rush, as if someone put an order to hurry up with this linguistic shit but delegated the savior's role to Louise nonetheless. Just wonder, how linguistics studies are going to gain their weight on the higher education ladder afterwards.
There's also a secondary story, which begins when Louise meets a scientist Ian Donnely (Jeremy Renner) on the helicopter flying them to the military base. Louise is lonely living in her modern house on a lovely spot. Ian also confesses that he has never been married. Both seem strangers among the military men and automatically stick together. There's no love story, only Louise's visions. And the aliens telling her the truth. But it takes time to translate it.