Originally published on Moviepilot.com
Would you fulfill a future that ensures the death of your child if that future ends up saving humanity? Would you endure personal devastation for world peace?
These are some of the poignant questions posed by director Denis Villeneuve's sci-fi masterpiece, Arrival.
Featuring a near-perfect screenplay by Eric Heisserer, the story of Arrival isn't just entertaining, it leaves the audience pondering many questions we've had before such as the existence of life on other planets and whether or not the future is fixed.
Arrival takes a deep dive into these philosophical questions and more, while examining our fear of a changing world and the things we don't understand. Yet, the film also delivers a delightfully bright message -- that fear can transform into hope.
Aliens have arrived and the world is in panic. This is a premise that has been explored in many Sci-Fi films, but in Arrival, these beings aren't here to hurt us, they're here to help. However, there's just one problem: we don't know how to communicate with them.
Arriving in ships that look nothing like any technology we've ever seen before, these Aliens appear to be very different from humans. Their tentacles and octopus-like bodies make them look more like the creature from Cloverfield than saviors of the human race.
The film brilliantly tackles the theme of xenophobia with this premise, and is a strong reminder that our future depends on working together. Thankfully, this is something Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) understands in the film. Where others panic, she sees promise and her open mind leads the aliens to offer her a gift that can change the world.
The Gift And The Choice
The story is a nonlinear narrative which keeps the audience on its toes with many surprises throughout the film. However, Arrival takes this story-telling approach one step further by making the nonlinear structure a part of the plot.
A new approach to the understanding of time and the ability to operate within it is the offer Dr. Louise Banks is given by the aliens at the end of the film, but the gift also has great potential as a weapon and she must make a heartbreaking choice to use her new understanding to secure a future that includes the death of her own child.
This is fine storytelling that will leave audience members dissecting the film long after they've left the theater.
While the movie is titled Arrival, the real story takes place after the aliens depart and it is only at the end that we realize we've been watching stories from different points in time play out simultaneously in a seamless narrative. This is particularly realized with the character Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), a theoretical physicist who joins Dr. Louise Banks on her mission to find a way to communicate with the aliens who have arrived on Earth.
The audience's understanding of his place in the story, as well as Banks' life, continues to change throughout the film as more of the story is revealed and we eventually learn that this tale of aliens arriving on Earth is also a moving story of love and loss.
Donnelly is not only her teammate, but the future father of her child and their love will end with tragedy.
The gift Banks is given makes this reveal all the more heartbreaking, as she knows her relationship with Donnelly will not end well and their child will die, yet she chooses to continue to move forward and not interfere with the past because the future depends on their work together.
Arrival asks the question, what would you do if you were presented with an incredible dilemma like this? If we had to choose between the future of the world or the chance to spare ourselves an incredible amount of personal pain, would we have the strength to make the right decision?
Dr. Louise Banks gives us hope we would -- and we could all use a little more hope right now.