Movie Review: Arrival


Arrival does a good job of showing scientists at work.

The movie tells the story of a linguist and a theoretical physicist on deadline to translate the language of an alien species. The aliens arrive in twelve giant, almond-shaped monoliths that float above cities and remote locations across the globe.


The US military recruits linguist Louise Banks, played by Amy Adams to help communicate with the aliens and understand why they have arrived on earth.

Banks is joined by physicist, played by Jeremy Renner. The two of them work methodologically, tirelessly, making slow progress to communicate with the aliens. They share information with their peers around the globe and share breakthroughs, albeit very slowly.

The clock ticks. The stock markets plummet. And the world’s military powers begin putting pressure on the scientists despite the challenge of communicating with an alien species, despite their progress, and despite the chaos and fear of the unknown that grip the world.

This is the way science progresses. In fits and starts. Slowly. With a lot of failure along the way. It’s not something that can be forced. Discoveries happen serendipitously.

But diverse points of view, listening, and open communication move science closer to a solution.

Arrival is an unusual alien movie. It’s not about aliens invading and taking over the world. It’s slow-moving. The storytelling is not linear – it goes back and forth in time. It requires patience as a viewer, just as doing science requires patience, asking the right questions and being willing to fail in search of an answer.