Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Tzi Ma, Mark O’Brien
OUR RATING: ★★★★☆
Sci-fi drama directed by Denis Villeneuve. Arrival (2016) follows an elite team, language expert Louise Banks (Amy Adams), mathematician Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), and US Army soldier Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker), put together to investigate when multiple mysterious spacecraft touch down across the globe. Humankind teeters on the verge of global war as everyone scrambles for answers, and to find them, Banks, Donnelly and Weber will take a chance that could threaten their lives, and quite possibly humanity.
Our Favorite Quotes:'Despite knowing the journey and where it leads, I embrace it, and I welcome every moment of it.' - Dr. Louise Banks (Arrival) Click To Tweet
Dr. Louise Banks: [as we see her giving birth to her daughter] I used to think this was the beginning of your story. Memory is a strange thing. It doesn’t work like I thought it did. We are so bound by time, by its order.
Dr. Louise Banks: [we see her raising her daughter] I remember moments in the middle.
Dr. Louise Banks: [we see her being told grave news about her adolescent daughter] And this was the end.
Dr. Louise Banks: [we see her caring for her sick daughter on her deathbed] Come back to me. You come back to me.
Dr. Louise Banks: [after he daughter’s death] But now I’m not so sure I believe in beginnings and endings.
Dr. Louise Banks: There are days that define your story beyond your life. Like the day they arrived.
Dr. Louise Banks: [to her students] Where is everyone? Okay. Well, let’s get started. Today we are talking about Portuguese and why it sounds so different from the other Romance languages. The story of Portuguese begins in the kingdom of Galicia, in the Middle Ages, where language was seen as an expression of art.
Dr. Louise Banks: [as her students seems distracted] Any news you want to share?
Student: Dr. Banks, can you turn the TV to a news channel?
[Louise turns on the TV and we learn that extraterrestrial spacecrafts have landed across Earth]
Colonel Weber: I’m Colonel GT Weber. We never formally met, but two years ago, you did some Farsi translations for Army Intelligence.
Dr. Louise Banks: Oh.
Colonel Weber: You made quick work of those insurgent videos.
Dr. Louise Banks: You made quick work of those insurgents.
Colonel Weber: You are on the top of everyone’s list when it comes to translations. And you have another two years in your SSBI, so you still have top-secret clearance. That’s why I’m in your office and not at Berkeley.
Dr. Louise Banks: Okay.
Colonel Weber: [he takes out a recorder and plays it] I have something I need you to translate for me.
Man’s Voice: [on the recording, to the aliens] Why are you here? Can you understand us? Where did you come from?
Colonel Weber: [after Louise has heard the alien recording] Now you heard it. What do you make of it?
Dr. Louise Banks: Is that…
Colonel Weber: Yes.
Dr. Louise Banks: How many?
Colonel Weber: How many what?
Dr. Louise Banks: How many speaking?
Colonel Weber: Two. Assume they were not speaking at the same time.
Dr. Louise Banks: Are you sure? Did they have mouths?
Colonel Weber: How would you approach translating this? Do you hear any words? Phrases?
Dr. Louise Banks: I don’t know.
Colonel Weber: So what can you tell me?
Dr. Louise Banks: I can tell you that it’s impossible to translate from an audio file. I would need to be there to interact with them.
Colonel Weber: You didn’t need that with the Farsi translations.
Dr. Louise Banks: I didn’t need it because I already knew the language, but this, this is…
Colonel Weber: I know what you’re doing.
Dr. Louise Banks: Tell me what I’m doing.
Colonel Weber: I’m not taking you to Montana. It’s all I can do to keep it from turning into a tourist site for everybody who has a TS clearance.
Dr. Louise Banks: I’m just telling you what it would take to do this job.
Colonel Weber: This is not a negotiation. If I leave here, your chance is gone. Good day.
Dr. Louise Banks: Colonel? You mentioned Berkeley. Are you going to ask Danvers next?
Colonel Weber: Maybe.
Dr. Louise Banks: Before you commit to him, ask him the Sanskrit word for war and its translation.
'Language is the foundation of civilization. It is the glue that holds a people together. It is the first weapon drawn in a conflict.' - Ian Donnelly (Arrival) Click To Tweet
Colonel Weber: Morning.
Dr. Louise Banks: Colonel?
Colonel Weber: Gavisti. He says it means “an argument.” What do you say it means?
Dr. Louise Banks: A desire for more cows.
Colonel Weber: Pack your bags.
Dr. Louise Banks: Alright. Give me twenty minutes?
Colonel Weber: We takeoff in ten.
Ian Donnelly: “Language is the foundation of civilization. It is the glue that holds a people together. It is the first weapon drawn in a conflict.”
Colonel Weber: Louise, this is Ian Donnelly. Louise Banks, Ian Donnelly.
Dr. Louise Banks: That’s quite a greeting.
Ian Donnelly: Yeah, well, you wrote it.
Dr. Louise Banks: Yeah. It’s the kind of thing you write as a preface. Dazzle them with the basics.
Ian Donnelly: Yeah, it’s great. Even if it’s wrong.
Dr. Louise Banks: It’s wrong?
Ian Donnelly: Well, the cornerstone of civilization isn’t language, it’s science.
Colonel Weber: Ian is a theoretical physicist from Los Alamos. You’ll be reporting to me, but you’ll be working with him when you’re in the shell.
Ian Donnelly: That’s what they’re calling the UFO.
Colonel Weber: Priority one, what do they want, and where are they from?
Ian Donnelly: And beyond that, how did they get here? Are they capable of faster-than-light travel? We prepared a list of questions to, you know, go over, starting with a series of just a handshake binary sequences…
Dr. Louise Banks: How about we just talk to them before we start throwing math problems at them?
Colonel Weber: This is why you’re both here.
Ian Donnelly: I’ll bring the coffee. Coffee with some aliens.
Dr. Kettler: Louise Banks? Ian Donnelly? When was the last time either of you have eaten?
Dr. Louise Banks: Last night.
Ian Donnelly: Same.
Dr. Kettler: Last time you did something stressful?
Ian Donnelly: Does now count? Just saying.
Dr. Louise Banks: Who was being carted off in the medevac?
Dr. Kettler: Not everyone is able to process experiences like this.
Dr. Kettler: Either of you claustrophobic?
Ian Donnelly: No.
Dr. Louise Banks: No.
Dr. Kettler: Currently taking any medications? Allergies? Pregnant?
Dr. Louise Banks: No.
Dr. Kettler: The booster is a kick to your system, so you may experience some side effects, nausea, dizziness, headaches, a ringing in your ears, like you have tinnitus.
'Memory is a strange thing. We are so bound by time, by its order.' - Dr. Louise Banks (Arrival) Click To Tweet
Colonel Weber: Let me get you two to your stations.
Ian Donnelly: Yes, sir.
Colonel Weber: Remember, we need answers as soon as possible. What do they want? Where are they from? Why are they here? This is the priority. Everyone, this is Dr. Ian Donnelly. He’ll be running this team here.
Ian Donnelly: Have they responded to anything? Shapes, patterns, numbers, Fibonacci?
Colonel Weber: We can’t tell what they’re saying when they respond to “hello”, so don’t get ahead of yourself.
Dr. Louise Banks: What have you figured out?
Colonel Weber: We’re just getting started.
Ian Donnelly: [as they’re getting dressed in hazmat suits in order to meet the aliens] What kind of radiation exposure are we walking into?
Captain Marks: Nominal. These are just for safety.
Dr. Louise Banks: So is there any physical contact with the, um, am I the only one having trouble saying aliens?
Captain Marks: There’s a wall. Like, a glass wall. You can’t get to them.
Ian Donnelly: So what do they look like?
Captain Marks: You’ll see soon enough. Hurry up.
Colonel Weber: [referring to the alien spacecraft] Every eighteen hours a door opens up, the door opens up at the bottom. That’s where we go in.
Dr. Louise Banks: [inside the alien spacecraft] So what happens now?
Colonel Weber: [as two aliens appear behind the glass] They arrive. Dr. Banks. Dr. Banks, you can start.
Colonel Weber: [referring to the whiteboard in Louise’s hand] What’s that for?
Dr. Louise Banks: A visual aid. Look, I’m never going to be able to speak their words, if they are talking, but they might have some sort of written language or basis for visual communication.
Colonel Weber: Okay. Let’s get started.
Dr. Louise Banks: [to the aliens] I’m human. What are you? Human.
Colonel Weber: Everything you do in there, I have to explain to a room full of men whose first and last question is, “How can this be used against us?” So you’re going to have to give me more than that.
Dr. Louise Banks: Kangaroo.
Colonel Weber: What is that?
Dr. Louise Banks: In 1770, Captain James Cook’s ship ran aground off the coast of Australia, and he led a party into the country, and they met the Aboriginal people. One of the sailors pointed at the animals that hop around and put their babies in their pouch, and he asked what they were, and the Aborigine said, “Kangaroo.”
Colonel Weber: And your point is?
Dr. Louise Banks: It wasn’t till later that they learned that “kangaroo” means “I don’t understand.” So I need this so that we don’t misinterpret things in there. Otherwise, this is going to take ten times as long.
Colonel Weber: I can sell that for now, but I need you to submit your vocabulary words before the next session.
Dr. Louise Banks: Fair.
Colonel Weber: And remember what happened to the Aborigines. A more advanced race nearly wiped them out.
Ian Donnelly: [as Webber turns and leaves] It’s a good story.
Dr. Louise Banks: Thanks. It’s not true, but it proves my point.
Dr. Louise Banks: So first, we need to make sure that they understand what a question is. Okay, the nature of a request for information along with a response. Then, we need to clarify the difference between a specific “you” and a collective “you”, because we don’t want to know why Joe Alien is here, we want to know why they all landed. And purpose requires an understanding of intent. We need to find out: do they make conscious choices? Or is their motivation so instinctive that they don’t understand a “why” question at all? And, and biggest of all, we need to have enough vocabulary with them that we understand their answer.
Captain Marks: [as Louise starts taking off her helmet and hazmat suite] Dr. Banks!
Dr. Louise Banks: It’s okay.
Colonel Weber: What’s going on?
Captain Marks: Hey! What are you doing?
Dr. Louise Banks: Yeah, I’m fine.
Captain Marks: Are you insane?
Dr. Louise Banks: They need to see me.
Captain Marks: She’s taking off her hazmat suit. D. Banks! Is it okay?
Colonel Weber: You’re risking contamination.
Dr. Louise Banks: They need to see me.
Colonel Weber: Dr. Banks. Dr. Banks.
Captain Marks: She’s walking towards the screen.
'If you could see your whole life from the start to finish, would you change things?' - Dr. Louise Banks (Arrival) Click To Tweet
Dr. Louise Banks: [as she touches the screen one of the aliens extends one of it’s tenticles] Now that’s a proper introduction. Hey. Louise. I am Louise. Ian, do you want to introduce yourself?
Ian Donnelly: Yeah.
Dr. Louise Banks: Louise.
Ian Donnelly: [takes his hazmat suit and helmet off] Screw it! Everybody dies, right?
Captain Marks: Sir, Donnelly is taking off his hazmat suit. Permission to abort?
Colonel Weber: Continue the session.
Ian Donnelly: Ian.
Dr. Louise Banks: Louise. You, who are you?
Dr. Louise Banks: [as the aliens emit circular symbols onto the screen in response] I think those are their names. They have names.
Ian Donnelly: So what are we going to call them?
Dr. Louise Banks: I don’t know.
Ian Donnelly: I was thinking Abbott and Costello.
Dr. Louise Banks: Yeah.
Ian Donnelly: Yeah?
Dr. Louise Banks: Yeah, I like it. I like it.
Ian Donnelly: Wow!
Dr. Kettler: How do you feel?
Dr. Louise Banks: Overworked.
Dr. Kettler: Well, I guess I don’t need to tell you you’re putting yourself at risk. Well there’s no signs of radiation poisoning yet. We’ll see how your blood tests look. For now, I’m going to give you another boost.
Ian Donnelly: Here are some of the many things we don’t know about heptapods. Greek. Hepta, “Seven”. Pod, “Foot”. Seven feet. Heptapod. Who are they? Trying to answer this in any meaningful way is hampered by the fact that, outside being able to see them and hear them, the heptapods leave absolutely no footprint. The chemical composition of their spaceship is unknown. The shell emits no waste, no gas, no radiation. Assuming that the shells communicate with each other, they do so without detection. The air between the shells is untroubled by sonic emission or light wave.
Ian Donnelly: Are they scientists? Or tourists? If they’re scientists, they don’t seem to ask a lot of questions.
'You can understand communication and still end up single.' - Dr. Louise Banks (Arrival) Click To Tweet
Ian Donnelly: Why did they park where they did? The world’s most decorated experts can’t crack that one. The most plausible theory is that they chose places on Earth with the lowest incidence of lightning strikes. But there are exceptions. The next most plausible theory is that Sheena Easton had a hit song at each of these sites in 1980. So, we just don’t know.
Ian Donnelly: How do they communicate? Here, Louise is putting us all to shame. The first breakthrough was to discover that there’s no correlation between what a heptapod says and what a heptapod writes.
Ian Donnelly: Unlike all written human languages, their writing is semasiographic. It conveys meaning. It doesn’t represent sound. Perhaps they view our form of writing as a wasted opportunity, passing up a second communications channel.
Ian Donnelly: We have our friends in Pakistan to thank for their study of how heptapods write, because unlike speech, a logogram is free of time. Like their ship or their bodies, their written language has no forward or backward direction. Linguists call this non-linear orthography, which raises the question, “Is this how they think?” Imagine you wanted to write a sentence using two hands, starting from either side. You would have to know each word you wanted to use, as well as how much space they would occupy. A heptapod can write a complex sentence in two seconds, effortlessly. It’s taken us a month to make the simplest reply. Next, expanding vocabulary. Louise thinks it could easily take another month to be ready for that.
'There are days that define your story beyond your life.' - Dr. Louise Banks (Arrival) Click To Tweet
Ian Donnelly: [sitting outside near the spacecraft] Nice out here, huh?
Dr. Louise Banks: Yeah, it’s a nice view.
Ian Donnelly: Away from the noise. You know, I was just thinking about you. You approach language like a mathematician. You know that, right?
Dr. Louise Banks: I will take that as a compliment.
Ian Donnelly: Yeah, well, it is. As I watch you steer us around these communication traps that I didn’t even know existed, it’s like, “What?” I guess that’s why I’m single.
Dr. Louise Banks: Trust me, you can understand communication and still end up single.
Dr. Louise Banks: I feel like everything that happens in there comes down to the two of us.
Ian Donnelly: Yeah, that’s a good thing though, right? You and I? Have you seen the jokers that we’re working with? Thank God I got you!
Ian Donnelly: You know, I was doing some reading about this idea that if you immerse yourself into a foreign language, then you can actually rewire your brain.
Dr. Louise Banks: The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. It’s the the theory that the language you speak determines how you think, and…
Ian Donnelly: Yeah, it affects how you see everything. I’m curious, are you dreaming in their language?
Dr. Louise Banks: I may have had a few dreams, but I don’t think that that makes me unfit to do this job.
'Purpose requires an understanding of intent.' - Dr. Louise Banks (Arrival) Click To Tweet
Dr. Louise Banks: Are they using a game to converse with their heptapods?
Colonel Weber: Maybe. Why?
Dr. Louise Banks: Well, let’s say that I taught them chess instead of English. Every conversation would be a game. Every idea expressed through opposition, victory, defeat. You see the problem? If all I ever gave you was a hammer…
Colonel Weber: Everything’s a nail.
Colonel Weber: [referring to the symbols the aliens have written] What does it say?
Dr. Louise Banks: Offer weapon.
Dr. Louise Banks: We don’t know if they understand the difference between a weapon and a tool. Our language, like our culture, is messy, and sometimes, one can be both.
Ian Donnelly: And it’s quite possible that they’re asking us to offer them something, not the other way around. It’s like the first part of a trade.
Colonel Weber: So how do we clarify their intentions beyond those two words?
Dr. Louise Banks: Well, I go back in. Right away, we go back in and we clear this up.
Agent Halpern: It’s more complicated than that.
Dr. Louise Banks: How is it more complicated than that?
'The cornerstone of civilization isn't language, it's science.' - Ian Donnelly (Arrival) Click To Tweet
Agent Halpern: We need to sit on this information until we know what it means, so we aren’t sharing it with our enemies. We must consider the idea that our visitors are prodding us to fight among ourselves until only one faction prevails.
Dr. Louise Banks: There’s no evidence of that.
Agent Halpern: Sure there is, just grab a history book. The British with India, the Germans with Rwanda. They even got a name for it in Hungary. Yeah. We’re a world with no single leader. It’s impossible to deal with just one of us, and with the word “weapon” now.