Denis Villeneuve is a fantastic director from Prisoners to Blade Runner 2049. He knows how to build tension and bring a realistic sci-fi movie to the big screen. Arrival may be his greatest work to date. Amy Adams does most of the heavy lifting of acting as Louise Banks. She is supported by Jeremy Renner as Ian Donnelly. Louise is a world-renowned linguist and Ian is a theoretical physicist.
Louise and Ian are tasked with communicating with aliens aboard their ship and determining why they have arrived on earth. There are twelve other ships around the world with each country working in isolation on determining why the aliens are there. The film does a good job of describing how a language is constructed and common translational pitfalls depending on your starting point. It does force you to think about how we communicate.
The film is harder to describe than most, but it is enthralling. There is a threat of global war because of the aliens and the breakdown of cooperation. The time crunch Louise is working under forces the plots along at a pace to keep you interested. Part of the film is a journey through Louise's mind and memories from her life. Villeneuve got a perfect performance out of Adams to bring these intangible things to the screen.
I have seen Arrival a few times and it holds up to a re-watch. It is not hard sci-fi, and it never feels apocalyptic. I walk away from it each time with boosted faith in humanity. The film ties up loose ends and leaves you on a positive note, something that can’t be said about a lot of movies.