Film Review: Arrival


They came, they saw, they conquered… the ability to communicate with humanity through plate glass windows. The alien invaders have arrived?

Arrival is pretty simple to explain on its basic level: 12 alien vessels appear in random locations around the world and humanity is tasked with figuring out why. What isn’t so simple to explain is why I enjoyed the movie. You just have to feel it yourself.

Here’s the thing, Arrival isn’t your typical alien movie because “invasion” isn’t included in the sub genre. This isn’t Independence Day or Signs; this is a long hallway where two species stare at each other with questioning eyes. Well, one species, at least. As far as I could tell the aliens didn’t have questioning eyes. Or eyes at all, for that matter.

The thing about the alien design, if you’ll allow me this tangent, is that it’s one of the few things about the movie that you don’t want to actually think about. Because if you do you’ll start thinking about where they come from and how they got here, which seems so improbable. They look like creatures from legends passed around by deep sea fisherman, survivors of the primordial soup, not something capable of space travel. Seriously, just try imagining these aliens building a ship. Pics or it didn’t happen, you guys.

Yeah, it’s definitely best not to think about it…

Which means it’s time to chop these thoughts of how they came to be on our planet off at the knee equivalent in tentacles. How they got here isn’t important, nor is the why, really. It is to the characters, sure, but at some point the answer becomes irrelevant to the true story, and when it is revealed it is disappointing. As if the movie has been lessened by a trivial side note. It becomes just like every other movie. For a second, anyway.

Luckily, as I said, the why doesn’t really matter to the real story. Not really. What happens before the film and what happens after the film doesn’t matter. What matters is the experience within.

For an alien film, Arrival isn’t the most exciting. There aren’t ships destroying national monuments or aliens screaming at children from cornfields, but there is a meaningful experience worth having. Like with Interstellar, but not quite as spectacular. The point is Arrival made me feel something. It’s hard to explain how or why it made me feel the way it did, but I felt it, darn it!