Movie Review: Arrival (English)

For a science-fiction movie about close encounters with a smart alien race, Arrival (based on Ted Chiang's short story Story of Your Life with an added geo-political angle that feels a little out of place) is unshowy and curiously devoid of terror. At least not the kind of terror explored in Independence Day. But never is it for a moment lacking in cerebral thrills even as it addresses larger themes of mass hysteria, grief, acceptance ("If you could see your whole life laid out in front of you, would you change things?," asks Dr. Louise Banks to her fellow physicist friend Ian Donnelly towards the very end), communication, cooperation and compassion (not just with aliens, but with one another as humans) in a refreshingly affecting manner not often seen in films.

It's also an immensely personal story, that of a linguist who experiences time out of order because of her attempts to understand the alien language, leading her to have a glimpse of her own future, and subsequently struggling to cope up with what she has learnt. Zipping back and forth in time, much like the non-deterministic, nonlinear language that becomes the focal point of the elliptical narrative, Denis Villeneuve's (of Prisoners, Enemy and Sicario fame) mind-bending sci-fi outing brings back memories of Rian Johnson's Looper with its moralistic, philosophical take on humankind, yet never for once shies away from its beating emotional core that's well complemented by finely calibrated performances and an otherworldly, hypnotic musical score from Max Richter and Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. By turns inviting and opaque, Arrival is a mystifying watch.