Each year after the Oscars, I watch all of the Best Picture Nominated films. I do this partly because it has become a highly anticipated annual ritual that extends the award season for me. But mostly, I watch all of the nominees because I love movies. This practice encourages me to watch films that I might have passed over otherwise. By the time I have viewed through the list, I am always grateful that I experienced each movie.
Up first tonight was the sci-fi flick, Arrival. I was excited to kick off my viewing with this movie because it is rare for a fim in this genre to receive a Best Picture Nomination. I knew there must be an extraordinary story captured within the guise of science fiction…and I was right.
Arrival stars Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker. Directed by Denis Villeneuve, the movie is based on the novella by Ted Chiang. The film is rated PG-13, for very brief strong language, and has a run time of 1 hour and 56 minutes. Arrival was nominated for 8 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. It won for Best in Sound Editing.
The earth is visited by a dozen spherical pods, that all arrive at the same time, hovering in locations around the world. In the US, the pod appears in Montana, and like her sister ships, it wants to communicate.
Linguistics professor Louise Banks (Adams) is the perfect person to head up the communications team. She has an understanding of languages that goes beyond words. She recognizes patterns, symbols, and the story telling element involved in communicating.
Dr. Banks is recruited by Colonel Weber (Whitaker), who flies her into the militarized zone surrounding the spacecraft. She teams up with theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Renner). Their mission is to figure out how to communicate with the alien race aboard the craft, and ask the ultimate question…
What is your purpose here?
At the same time other teams in other countries around the world are attempting to communicate as well, and figure out the complex language of the aliens. Tensions rise, globally, as governments become suspicious of the visitors…and each other.
Do the aliens come in peace? Or is war about to destroy the human race?
This was a beautifully done film, in a genre that often relies on fast paced action sequences and fear of the unknown to hold an audience. Arrival does neither, choosing instead to develop a thought provoking movie through the idea of story as communication.
There are much bigger themes there than aliens meet humans, and the threat of global or intergalactic war. Arrival becomes a larger story even than working together as one, for the betterment of all, although that is a noble enough premise.
At its core, this movie is about story…their stories, my story, your story…and the mysteries of time, the past, the present, the future. It takes the crucial question that the world leaders and scientists wanted an answer to, and turns it back on them, and on us.
What is your purpose here?
Louise Banks asks another question, as her perceptions around the first query shifts.
If you could see your whole life, from start to finish, would you change things?
That is a powerful and mind opening question, that brought tears to my eyes. Could she embrace life if she knew how the journey would unfold? Could I? Watch the movie, to see how Louise’s answer impacts her life.
How would I answer that question? What choices would I make?
I’m still thinking about my answers…and the movie Arrival.
Pick up Arrival here:
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