Film Review: Arrival

This film is exactly the sort of science fiction I love. It’s a clever story that feels as if it makes sense forwards as well as backwards. I love stories that meddle with time like this and make it work – another example I love is The Time Traveller’s Wife. We meet Louise after seeing a series of flashes of what we assume are flashbacks – showing she has lost her daughter. So I viewed her through that sense of loss. When she broke down and we saw other flashes, I assumed it was recent, she was struggling with it. But by the end of the film we understand she has seen flash forwards instead. And despite the pain she knows is ahead, she decides not to change a thing, to have the life she knows is there ahead of her. It was an interesting thought. Would I do that? I imagine I would try everything to try and change the future, to make it better, to make it right, and without pain. But can any of us really do that? The future is not painfree or perfect. And there is real joy and light mixed in there – she does not want to miss out on that time with her daughter, it is precious. To quote Game of Thrones, all men must die. So the dying part is not what we should focus on, it is the living part.

I found it refreshing that this film featuring aliens was not an invasion film. It was threatening, in the way that aliens surely must feel when they arrive and we don’t understand them or their technology. The most threatening thing about the film was the other nations across the world and what they might do – and if they started aggression would it spread across the globe? It is a common feature of science fiction films – humankind throwing the first punch out of fear, triggering much worse aggression. It was also refreshing that these aliens were in fact offering language. They weren’t here to conquer or to take natural resources. In this way, the film was quiet, it’s drama was in the tension of the unknown. And I really liked that.

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