Arrival (Denis Villeneuve, USA, 2016)

“If you could see your whole life from start to finish, would you change things?” This line is at the heart of this film. It is the idea that haunts the screen from the very first images to the last scene and consumes the main character, Dr. Louise Banks. When alien spacecrafts have landed in locations all across the globe, Banks, who is a communications and language expert, is called upon. Her task is to make to contact and create some from of communication with these alien life forms in order to gain an understanding of their purpose for being on Earth.

However, she soon discovers that the alien’s unique language is much more than just words. In their own words, it is a weapon. Not a weapon of power but of time. After Banks unlocks the mystery of their language the strange visions and dreams that she has been having begin to make sense and she suddenly is not constrained by the laws of time.

Arrival is a brilliant film that uses two absurd backdrops (aliens and time-space continuum worm holes) to pose a couple of profound questions. First, what would you change about the past of you could? Second, which is the most interesting and arresting thought, if you could see into the future, would you want to and would you be content to accept the path that is laid out for you?

Arrival’s emotional quotient is high and leans more heavily on character development and sophistication over action sequences. Beyond the genius of the screenplay and cerebral film making quality there is a deep sense of spirituality here. A sense that we are not alone and are simply a small piece of a grand plan. This is a film about the sovereignty of a higher power and predestination. It is a film about faith and forgiveness. Arrival is a film about personal triumph in the face of losing control.

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