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One of the most themes in science fiction has always been mankind’s first encounter with an extra-terrestrial species. In most instances, particularly during the Golden age of the monster movie, the aliens that our species encounters are not usually the friendliest lot in the galaxy. In many cases, they are out right belligerent hideous bodies making them stronger, faster and smarter than us. Movies like ‘It Came from Outer Space,' ‘Invaders from Mars’ and the far more subtle episode of the Twilight Zone, ‘To Serve Man.', there has never been a shortage of first encounter stories. No matter what form they took your objectives are usually clear; they wanted some resource that we had going to turn our lush, blue planet into a smoldering cinder. Began to change with a particular movie in 1951, ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ established the concept that an alien race capable transverse thing unimaginable distance of space does not do so just to annihilate us. As a general concession to the audience was remarkable about the aliens were able to understand English, supposedly by monitoring our radio signals for years. Finally, a science fiction movie has come along that is unique so far. ‘Arrival,' is another in a long line the first encounter films with quite a difference, the protagonist of the story is linguistics expert, indicating the primary objective of the military and government agencies involved in making contact is determined to make a realistic effort at meaningful communication. This movie is a groundbreaking example thanks to a production objective to induce the audience to think. There is a notable absence of epic battles. No futuristic alien fighters are zooming around the sky targeting our most treasured landmarks, homes and places of business in innocent victims by the score. Gone is the usual segment of the film with scientists from all over the world unite, putting past jingoistic concerns behind them, to repel the invaders from the stars. The individuals are setting the foundation for first contact, not military men of exalted rank but rather people with PhDs and a penchant for thinking out of the box. The result was a film of rare excellence, one that helps to redefine this particular subgenre and also the crafting of science fiction movies. Epic battles for the survival of humanity; visual extravagance are replaced here by a dependence upon cerebral commitment on the part of the audience.

Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is one of the world’s foremost authorities in linguistics. The scope of expertise goes beyond the mere understanding of languages and how they interrelate to each other; her interests extend into a profound understanding of the fundamental constructs of the language and how it facilitates communication. Louise is haunted by dreams of a great tragedy, the death of an adolescent daughter who succumbed to cancer. What is most unusual is that the reason is not to have a child, but divisions are exceptionally real. She has a robust respected career in academia as a university professor. One night at home she is a mystery by helicopter to some unknown location. Last few days the news has been completely overwhelmed by one, the most important one in the history of humanity. Over 12 seemingly random spots in on Earth, extraterrestrial space crafts have arrived, hovering motionless over the place. The one in the United States is in a remote area of Montana and as Louise soon is informed on opening appears on a regular schedule that allows humans and opportunity to approach the extraterrestrials remain within a sealed chamber with a transparent wall. On the other side of the partition, two members of the alien race that are similar in some way to the octopus accepted seven limbs. The name given to them are heptapods, but on nicknamed by the human observers as avid and Costello. Louise is brought in establish some communication so as to ascertain the alien's intention. Try to understand some of the highly advanced technology another specialist is brought in, theoretical physicist Dr. Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner). United States military remains in charge commanded by U.S. Army Colonel G T Weber (Forest Whitaker). Col. Weber is not openly hostile to the sciences, but he repeatedly reminds them that this is a military operation, and he is indisputably in charge. Unlike the unyielding military types in most other first encounter films Col. Weber is very willing to help the scientist as much as possible and is not the impediment to the academic approach that had been de rigueur in the traditional movie of this category.

Recovering from their initial contact with the aliens, the Louise and Ian begin to formulate a plan to gather the necessary information. Ian realizes quickly, but the best way to learn about the technology is to let Louise take the lead in establish communication. The preferred method of building a few rudimentary vocabulary words is initially met with some resistance by the Colonel, but he quickly comes to see the wisdom of her decision without developing a rudementary set of terms the potential for misunderstanding could be disastrous. Upon reentering the visitor's chamber, Louise finds heself stymied, unable to find common ground for simple objects. Discarding every safety protocol, Loise strips off of protective environments and in pointing to herself repeats, ‘Louise,' encouraging the alien emulator. One of the truly imaginative aspects of this movie is how the special effects team devised a method of communication for the heptapods. A seven digit ‘hand’ at the end of one of their tentacles that emit a black almost ink like substance. That material forms a ring against the glass with numerous bumps and markings. After a few sleepless nights of intense concentration realizes that the complex circular symbols are its core vocabulary. Feverishly working on collating the findings Louise comes up with a program for her tablet that she can use to create simple sentences.

With a primary means of understanding established Louise can open a dialogue with Abbott and Costello. Translations are still tenuous with only basic meanings associated with the words that are still lacking contextual nuances, becoming evident when the aliens communicate the phrase "offer weapon." All the nations around the world have been engaging in similar lines of research and investigation including the People’s Republic of China. They become confident that an attack is imminent in sharing information between the 12 sites is abruptly halted. Louise determines that the aliens’ concept of time is far different from theirs. What they have interpreted as a weapon is ‘gift, ’ and all troll parts are necessary for the complete gift to be known. Louise begins to experience flashbacks and flash-forwards, indicating that the aliens do not exist in our concept of the present, but their consciousness encompasses time itself. Theestablisment of the requisite sword of Damocles occurs when governments, including the United States, tend to use nuclear weapons against the ships. Unless Louise can contact the aliens once again and convince them that she understands the gift, an unprecedented disaster will befall planet Earth.

The film’s director, Canadian Denis Villeneuve, is making his entrée into the science fiction this movie. ‘Sicario’ is an action-packed story concerning the drug war for many of his other offerings a very intense premise. It seems that he is taking a liking to science fiction since his next film the highly anticipated ‘Blade Runner 2049’. Working from a screenplay provided by Eric Heisserer based on a story "Story of Your Life" written by Ted Chiang, there is never a moment that the audience feels anything less than being engaged in the story. Formally that is decidedly cerebral rather than visceral is incredible just how well a level of excitement is established and expertly escalated throughout the duration of the film. This is most definitely not a movie to watch in the background. It demands and deserves every iota of your attention. Considering the artistry and craftsmanship that went into the production, you will gladly commit yourself to every frame of this movie. Many firms have to be repeatedly watched to understand what is going on. While multiple viewings deepen your understanding, you want to experience the film times just for the sheer enjoyment.

This movie is a visual tour de force, as captivating as it is enigmatic. The audience may have a façade that could be considered the monstrous way they are depicted with the special effects confers upon them but undeniable sense of intelligence, and underlying sentience unlike the mind this brutality exhibited by the extraterrestrials of our youth. There are numerous plot threads typical of a mystery driving this story. There is a hopeful almost gentle feeling about the interactions between Louise and these emissaries from another world. Ms. Adams is one of the most eclectic actresses of her generation. She has a range and depth that is only recently given proper showcases conducive to its blossoming. While delightful and romantic comedies that form the foundation for career films that she has appeared in such intense the emotional roles as ‘Doubt,' ‘the Fighter and ‘American Hustle’ Intermixed with lighter projects including ‘Enchanted,' ‘Leap Year’ and ‘the Muppets.' It is exceedingly rare for doctors to be able to effortlessly between such cinematic extremes. This movie showcased her talent and an incredible and unique fashion allowing the audience to appreciate how thoroughly Ms. Adams can become the character she is portraying. In the persona of Louise, Ms. Adams portrays a woman facing the most monumental challenge of her professional career. He is called upon to use every tool for trade that she acculuated over years of academic theory. Still, she demonstrates that were the Louise’s greatest talent was channeling her humanity to find common ground with extraterrestrial creatures.

When movie aficionados give a name Jeremy Renner, the mantra immediately focuses on one of his most iconic characters, Hawkeye in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He plays a member of the Avengers not imbued with supernatural powers, or exceptionally advanced technology’s primary function is to humanize this group of superheroes. The very nature of this type of movie is hardly conducive to a highly detailed back story, although a concerted effort has been made to expand upon his home life. In this film, Mr. Renner is finally given a showcase to exhibit a far greater range of possible this action oriented roles. This is not the first time audiences have been afforded the opportunity to witness the amazing range of this active. Nominated for the Academy Award for best performance by leading man in the 2008 movie ‘The Hurt Locker.' It is also important to note that his leading lady Ms. Adams herself was nominated no less than for five Academy Awards, four for supporting actress and one for leading performer. While on the topic of Academy Awards this cast does most a renter for the category ‘best performance by in a leading role,' Forest Whitaker. But many excellent actors Mr. Whitaker spent a significant portion of his early career as a character actor he gained a unique understanding of the nuances of humanity and how best to convey a large range of emotions with portrayals.

‘Arrival’ is not just a rare science fiction was a gentle approach to a perennial favorite theme; it stands as a groundbreaking example of the cinematic artistry of telling a compelling story. I realize that there are people who have a problem with the dénouement, particularly in a scientific theory that is used to form the foundation of the conclusion. Even if you are unable to accept the scientific veracity of this plot point should not allow her to diminish from your appreciation of the entire film. Formal ludicrous plot contrivances have been used in many films of exceptional quality. Please just keep in mind that this is a story, and remarkably well told story in the exaggeration of one scientific theory is hardly a reason to pass any dispersion upon the film in its entirety.


Xenolinguistics: Understanding Arrival


Acoustic Signatures: The Sound Design


Eternal Recurrence: The Score


Principles of Time, Memory, & Language

Posted 02/14/2017

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