The Falconer

“Arrival” Plays Out Like a Free Verse Poem

Stephen French, Staff Writer

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It doesn’t rhyme, and it doesn’t play by any rules except its own, making for a uniquely fractured symphony of science fiction and psychological drama. It’s the kind of film that leaves its audience silent as the credits roll.

Amy Adams gives a stirring, nuanced performance as Louise Banks, a professor of linguistics who is called upon by the government after 12 unidentified flying objects descend to Earth’s surface. She arrives in Montana to find that the military has made contact with the towering creatures inside, which vaguely resemble what might happen if an octopus was mixed with a spider and a latex glove. While it’s obvious that they’re intelligent enough to communicate, all attempts to decipher their language have proven unsuccessful. That’s where Louise comes in. With the help of scientist Ian (Jeremy Renner), she must interpret the bizarre hieroglyphic symbols presented by the beings and then communicate back — all with the goal of answering one question: What do you want? Meanwhile, world leaders grow uneasy. Will Louise be able to prove that the cosmic visitors are peaceful, before man’s fear of the unknown kicks in?

“Arrival” was directed by Denis Villeneuve and penned by Ted Chiang, author of the 1998 short story, “The Story of Your Life,” on which the film was based. Essentially, what makes “Arrival” stand out from its counterparts in the science fiction genre is that it almost doesn’t belong there; at its core, it is more a character study than a first-contact film. Additionally, its themes of communication, and the importance of a unified world, are far from fantastical. Given the divided state of our country, they’re painfully relevant.

If you’re looking for an enthralling cinematic experience that still manages to be meaningful, “Arrival” absolutely delivers.

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