Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker
Director: Denis Villenueve
Story, Screenplay: Eric Heisserer
Muisc: Jóhann Jóhannsson
DOP: Bradford Young
Released: 24th Nov, 16 (India)
FEAST Rating: 4/5
Arrival, the latest Alien Sci-Fi film has been released on October 10th in UK and Russia. But, in India, the film got released on 24th November. Ever since I saw the film’s first trailer, knowing it’s a Denis Villeneuve film, I was waiting for this flick to watch. And as if it’s a controversial film, they kept on postponing the release. India, I tell you!
So, what made me eagerly wait for the film. It’s Denis Villeneuve. The guy who made movies like Enemy, Prisoners and the recent big break Sicario. The director has a cliched talent in making uncliched thrillers. Which also means he is not for the common audience, who would prefer easy, action-packed, colorful dramas. Well. now let’s talk about ‘their’ Arrival.
Arrival is Not an Alien Movie at all!
Yes. I mean it is not the typical “alien-invasion”, “end-of-the-world”, heroes saving the world from aliens bullshit kind of film. Even though, the trailer looks like alien-war drama, Denis has taken the alien genre to a whole new another level. This film is a modern master piece, nothing short of Kubrick’s 2001, A Space Odyssey.
You will even find lot of similar depictions in Arrival, for instance the huge black pebble-like spaceship resembles Kubrick’s black monolith in 2001. Not to mention the eerie background music, because Denis has a thing for that from the beginning.
“We are so bound by the Time, by it’s Order” – Louise Banks, Arrival
The film is a 95% realistic approach of ‘What if Aliens Arrive?’ scenario on Earth. How exactly things happen and how would people react to the situation. Moreover, what if they came not for war (unlike all other movies) but for just to say ‘Hi’.
But, they can’t say it because they don’t speak our language. What happens then? How does politics and army work out in a scenario as such. All these are just 5% of the plot. So, whats the rest 95% about? It’s Amy Adams (Dr. Louise Banks)
Watch Arrival Trailer
Arrival Plot and Ending Explained!
If you really don’t want to miss the thrill of the film, I highly recommend you to not read this article beyond the below line. Please go to the nearest theatre and engulf yourself in this timeless film. And come back here because you wouldn’t understand a bit of it unless you are a direct descendant of Einstein or Christopher Nolan. Well, then you can have my permission to read beyond this line.
The film begins with a beautiful lake view home shot in dull light with the world’s saddest song “On the Nature of Daylight” playing in the background. Louise Banks(Amy Adams), a linguistic lecturer, is gifted with a cute baby girl Hannah. Soon, we see Hannah as a 8 year old, playing with her mother in the outdoors. Then, comes the tantrum teenager Hannah, screaming at her mother. And then Hannah dies with cancer. Louise keeps weeping by her side. All this in just 3 min of beginning of the film.
Louise comes to teach her language class, sees the class is almost empty and asks the question “Where is Everyone?“. Now, here there are two things. One, Denis portrayed Louise in the role of Adam from his mind-bending Doppelganger film Enemy. May be he liked that role just like me. Second, that question is not just a question for classroom. It is the ultimate question to the universe. The Fermi’s Paradox.
Ok, what’s that? In a nutshell, with billion of stars and galaxies and milky ways floating all around us in this vast universe, there must have been at least a 1000 intelligent alien civilizations. At least 100 of them would have been advanced beings, which means they should have contacted us by now. So, where are they? Why they haven’t contacted us yet? Guys, we are not even into 10 mins of the film. And you can already see the depth of every passing minute! That’s Denis again.
They Arrived. What Now?
So, Louise finds that everyone from the class has gone out to see their arrival. 12 pebble shaped space ships have landed (hovered to be precise) in 12 random locations on earth. Pakistan is one of them! Everyone around the world goes haywire about the situation. But the arrived remain silent. As does Louise Banks.
She simply goes to her lake house and watches news over the TV and sleeps. The very next day, an army colonel, Weber comes to Louise and asks her help to decode a audio clip from aliens. They came to her because she helped them with translations earlier once.
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Well, Louise can’t decode it because she is not an alien herself. She asks for a direct interaction with ‘them’. The colonel denies and says he would go for another linguist specialist. And Louise poses a question: “Before confirming him, ask him the Sanskrit translation of the word War”. This just shows how confident Louise is about her work and how badly she wants to meet the aliens herself. That night, colonel comes to her place and takes her away to the base camp of Alien Landing Spot.
“There are days that define your story beyond your life, like the day they arrived” – Louise Banks, Arrival
Colonel introduces Louise to Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) midway and that they both should work together on this. Now comes the epic shot of complete revelation of the black spaceship in a picturesque landscape of mountains and clouds. With a goose-bumping BGM, this one shot makes you fall in love with the film.
They all reach at the base camp and get ready to meet the aliens. Before that, they get vaccinated, given govt. ID’s, given some set of questions to ask. All this is done at very basic and realistic level. You would think they are going for some conference call with onsite clients. It’s that grounded.
The Big Question: #Why Are They Here?
The team reaches the bottom of the spaceship at which a scheduled door unlocks every 18 hours to allow visitors. Ian touches the spaceship and gets amazed by the fact that he is actually touching an alien spaceship. That’s how any one would do if given a chance. Once they enter the hallway entrance into the spaceship, they realize it’s an anti-gravity zone. So, they don’t fall but just fly and glide inside that hallway. They reach the glass door and start communicating with the aliens.
And colonel Weber always urges to ask the big question: What’s your purpose on Earth? Even all the promos of the film ask the same question. But, Louise buys some more time explaining why they wouldn’t understand that question without figuring out a way to talk to them first. Two aliens, having seven leg-like structure(heptapods), comes to the glass door.
Louis writes ‘HUMAN’ on white board and shows it to them. She also writes her name and asks them if they have names too? They spill smoky ink from their tentacles into air and write some strange symbols back. It’s their language. And this goes on for days and weeks, sessions of learning alien’s language.
“If all I give you is a hammer, everything is a nail” – Louise Banks, Arrival
One fine day, Louise asks them ‘Why they are here‘. To which the aliens reply ‘Offer Weapon’. That’s it. These two words induces panic in all the nations and chaos everywhere. China and Russian political leaders disconnect themselves from Global-union and decides to do a pro-active attack on aliens.
But, Louise tries to explain to Weber that by the word Weapon, they could also mean a Tool. They could also be asking for help or offering us some help. The language can have so many implications because we are speaking to Aliens here. We should deal this situation more calmly because starting a war with an advanced alien species is the last option to choose.
Let’s Fast Forward from here!
Now, Louise and Ian goes in for one last time before the humans think of attacking aliens. The heptapods, Abbott and Costello, named by Ian, gives all the information for their arrival in one big puzzle of data and throws them out. Deciphering one alien word at a time is a tough task. Now, with whole bunch of clustered data, Ian says it would take ages to figure it out. But, Louise is having trouble sleeping and with flashbacks of her dead child, Hannah. She have strange and nightmarish dreams and by the time she wakes up, Ian figures out a pattern.
“This data is just a 1/12th of information. We have to unite the data from all other spaceships around the world” says Ian and Louise to Weber. Now, this is the real question. Will the world come together to save humanity at the time of crisis? Will all nations will to help each other and work as one species to save Earth? And this is why ‘they’ are precisely here. To prove who we are and what we have become today! So, that day never comes and so the aliens begin to exhibit some kind of protest by bending their ships horizontally. Louise takes one more chance and goes into the ship.
Louise now faces one of the heptapods, in its fullest shape. Though Denis never shows the aliens picture perfect but keeps them mystified in cloudy atmosphere. And by this time, Louise totally understands Alien visual language. They reveal some strange phenomenon. That they are omnipresent beings, meaning Time has no meaning to them. They can see future, past everything at one place.
No, they are not Gods!
They came here to ask for help which they would require 3000 years later. And in return, they will gift a Weapon(tool) – Louise Banks – a omnipresent being who can now read and write alien language. So, basically they came to sign a peace treaty with Earth. And while all this is going on, Louise sees flashes of her child. She comes down and everyone is at the edge of shooting down at aliens. She immediately runs into base camp and makes a private call to Chinese General (how does she know his number) and tells him something. That’s it. The Chinese withdraw the war orders. Russians do the same. Rest of the world does the same. And the Aliens go back. Later, Ian and Louise get married and they have a baby girl called, Hannah! (Wait, Whaaaaaaaaaat?)
Unveiling the Arrival Paradox:
- The film is in non-linear fashion. Infact its omnipresent fashion.
- Louise can see future. Thanks to heptapod Aliens. They gifted her.
- The initial sequences and all those flashbacks of Hannah, they are not past. They are from future.
- Louise calls the Chinese General, by accessing a future scene where he shows her his phone number and tells her what she said to him “War doesn’t make Winners, only Widows” in past scene, and warns him in the present to stop the decision of War against the aliens.
- Ian and Louise gets married after the aliens departure. Their baby is Hannah. Louise knows that Hannah is going to die with Cancer even before Hannah is born. But she still makes that choice accepting the fate of her destiny because she want to embrace that small time with her daughter rather than not having daughter at all.
- Ian leaves Louise because she hid the truth that she knows it all from the beginning but didn’t tell him. This the why Hannah always keeps asking, when would father come? And in one of those flashbacks(flashforwards), she tells Hannah that father left because she told him she can see things from future!
About the Makers of Arrival:
Denis Villeneuve – now you would remember this name for quite some time because you may hear it more and more down the line. Because he is the guy who is capable of showcasing a personal story of love and fate in such a grand scale of aliens, armies, politics and worldwide chaos. And even that in the best grounded way possible.
Speaking of Amy Adams, she is the heart and soul of the film. Her traumatic flashbacks, her wondering expressions, the silent emotions, her calm speaking abilities, everything of her performance is a brilliance. No wonder, if she gets an Oscar for this one.
Arrival is incomplete if we don’t speak about the gripping story, trumping music and soothing cinematography. The story is developed by Eric Heisserer from a short story “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang. Music is produced by Denis repetitive collaborator, Jóhann Jóhannsson. He is a master of eerie and spine-chilling background scores. Cinematography is done by new guy Bradford Young. And the film is edited by Joe Walker. A splendid piece of work from the whole cast and crew.
Please don’t get disappointed if you don’t get the film in the first go. It’s totally fine. You can come back here and read this article and rest in peace. Share this explanation and save your friends from scratching their heads. If you think, I missed something, please let me know in the comments section.