The language we speak in influences the way we think – or so many hypotheses claim and/or question. After all can you think about something you have no words for, or is it the lack of vocabulary that hinders us thinking about things we can’t name? Additionally there is our culture – our habits, rites, lifestyles and traditions – that influences our language and thus possibly how we think.
So what would happen when aliens arrive on Earth, how would we communicate and what have they got to say?
Arrival, the latest film by talented director Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Sicario) asks exactly this question. At it’s center is Louise Banks (Amy Adams) a talented linguist who is tasked with learning how to communicate with aliens hovering in egg-like spaceships over 12 locations all around the globe.
Banks partner is theoretical physicist Dr. Ian Connelly (Jeremy Renner) and while the two of them try to decrypt the alien’s language the whole world is waiting for the Heptapods, the seven legged squid like aliens on board the eggs, to act or attack.
Slowly Banks learns to understand the Heptapods language and read their circular hieroglyphic script-like smoke signals. As she does, how she thinks changes, time folds in on itself and past, future and present become one.
Arrival is a quite film, no capitals explode or spaceships are captured the action lies in the attempt to simply understand. And while as a concept this is extremely interesting it isn’t an easy sell on film, and doesn’t always work. Adams however does a wonderful job at selling the importance of language and fills the screen with her enthusiasm, Renner on the other hand has little to do and seems to be well aware of this.
Beautifully filmed and cleverly conceived Arrival just can’t quite keep it’s promise of becoming the next Close Encounters of the Third Kind and leaves the viewer wondering if Arrival just might have been an amazing film, or maybe it just might have missed its mark.