Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Tzi Ma, Mark O’Brien
OUR RATING: ★★★★☆
Sci-fi drama film directed by Denis Villeneuve when multiple mysterious spacecraft touch down across the globe, an elite team is put together to investigate, including language expert Louise Banks (Amy Adams), mathematician Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), and US Army soldier Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker). 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:'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 '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
Best Quotes (Total Quotes: 52)
[first lines; we see Banks giving birth to her daughter]
Dr. Louise Banks: [voice over] 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.
[we see Banks raising her daughter]
Dr. Louise Banks: [voice over] I remember moments in the middle.
[we see Banks being told grave news about her adolescent daughter]
Dr. Louise Banks: [voice over] And this was the end.
[we see Banks caring for her sick daughter on her deathbed]
Dr. Louise Banks: [voice over] Come back to me. You come back to me.
[after he daughter’s death we see Banks as she’s walking in the corridor of the hospital]
Dr. Louise Banks: [voice over] But now I’m not so sure I believe in beginnings and endings.
Dr. Louise Banks: [voice over] There are days that define your story beyond your life. Like the day they arrived.
[to her students as she is about to being her lecture]
Dr. Louise Banks: 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.
[her students seems distracted as they look at their laptops]
Dr. Louise Banks: Any news you want to share?
Student: Dr. Banks, can you turn the TV to a news channel?
[Banks 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: I have something I need you to translate for me.
[he takes out a recorder and plays it]
Man’s Voice: Why are you here? Can you understand us?
[there’s a low pitched growl in reply]
Man’s Voice: Where did you come from?
[another growl from the aliens]
[after Banks has heard the alien recording]
Colonel Weber: 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: Um, how many, um, 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, I, 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.
[Banks doesn’t respond]
Colonel Weber: Good day.
[Weber turns to leave]
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.
[late at night Banks hears helicopters outside her house, she opens the door to be greeted by Weber]
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: All right. 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: Uh, 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.
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.
[as they are getting dressed in hazmat suits in order to meet the aliens]
Ian Donnelly: 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.
[referring to the alien spacecraft]
Colonel Weber: Every eighteen hours a door opens up, the door opens up at the bottom. That’s where we go in.
[inside the alien spacecraft]
Dr. Louise Banks: So what happens now?
Colonel Weber: They arrive.
[they watch in tense anticipation as two aliens appear behind the glass]
Colonel Weber: Dr. Banks. Dr. Banks, you can start.
[referring to the whiteboard in Banks’s hand]
Colonel Weber: What’s that for?
Dr. Louise Banks: A visual aid. Look, I’m never gonna 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.
[to the aliens]
Dr. Louise Banks: 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.
[Webber turns and leaves]
Ian Donnelly: 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.
[as they’re trying to communicate with the aliens, Banks starts taking off her helmet and hazmat suite]
Captain Marks: 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.
[as she touches the screen one of the aliens extends one of it’s tenticles towards the screen]
Dr. Louise Banks: Now that’s a proper introduction. Hey. Louise. I am Louise.
[as Ian walks up to stand next to her]
Dr. Louise Banks: Ian, do you want to introduce yourself?
Ian Donnelly: Uh, yeah.
Dr. Louise Banks: Louise.
[he starts take his hazmat suit and helmet off]
Ian Donnelly: 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?
[the aliens emit circular symbols onto the screen in response]
Dr. Louise Banks: I think those are their names. They have names.
Ian Donnelly: So what are we gonna 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: [voice over] 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: [voice over] Are they scientists? Or tourists? If they’re scientists, they don’t seem to ask a lot of questions.
Ian Donnelly: [voice over] 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: [voice over] 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: [voice over] 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: [voice over] 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.
[Banks find Donnelly sitting outside near the spacecraft]
Ian Donnelly: 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, uh, 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, um, 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.
Ian Donnelly: Mm-hmm.
Dr. Louise Banks: It’s the the theory that, uh, it, it’s the theory that, uh, the language you speak determines how you think and…
Ian Donnelly: Yeah, it affects how you see everything. It’s, uh, I’m curious, are you dreaming in their language?
Dr. Louise Banks: I may have had a few dreams, but I don’t, I don’t think that that makes me unfit to do this job.
[referring to the symbols the aliens have written]
Colonel Weber: 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?
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.
Dr. Louise Banks: We cannot leave.
Colonel Weber: Glad to see you’re awake.
Dr. Louise Banks: We need to go back in and explain this wasn’t our fault.
Colonel Weber: We can’t go back inside.
Dr. Louise Banks: We have to.
Colonel Weber: What happened in there was an attack. We can hope for the best, but I have orders to prepare for a retaliation. We may have to evacuate.
Dr. Louise Banks: No, that’s the wrong move. As long as they stay, we have to stay.
[there’s a rumbling noise, everyone goes out of the tents and watch as the spacecraft rises a few inches]
Dr. Louise Banks: Well, they’re not leaving.
Colonel Weber: Why does this feel worse?
Dr. Louise Banks: You cracked something, didn’t you?
Ian Donnelly: Yeah. Come here. Take a look at this section. It seems to be talking about time. Their symbol for time is everywhere. So what is this? A formula for faster-than-light travel? Who can tell? There are too many gaps. Nothing’s complete. Then it dawned on me. Come here.
[looking at another screen]
Ian Donnelly: Right here. Stop focusing on the ones, look at the zeroes. How much of this is data? How much of it is negative space? So I measured it. 0.0833 recurring. Perhaps you’d like that as a fraction. One of twelve.
[presenting the information Ian has been able to translate from the alien symbols]
Dr. Louise Banks: What they’re saying right here is that this is one of twelve. We are part of a larger whole.
Agent Halpern: Or we’re one of twelve contestants for the prize.
Dr. Louise Banks: Why do I have to talk to him?
Colonel Weber: We’re all working together here.
Dr. Louise Banks: We need to talk to the other sites, we need to help them with what they’ve gotten from the heptapods.
Agent Halpern: In case you don’t remember, we’re blacked out. China just threatened to destroy their shell. We’re on our own.
Dr. Louise Banks: But this says that all of the pieces fit together.
Agent Halpern: And I’m telling you that no one else cares.
[after listening to a message from Russia]
Woman’s Voice: In their final session, the aliens said, “There is no time. Many become one.” I fear we have all been given weapons. If anyone is receiving this, please…
[there’s machine gun firing on the recording and then it ends]
Dr. Louise Banks: Well, I mean, there are a lot of ways you can interpret what he said.
Agent Halpern: I don’t need an interpreter to know what this means. Russia just executed one of their own experts to keep their secret.
Dr. Louise Banks: “Many become one,” could just be their way of saying, “Some assembly required.”
Agent Halpern: Why hand it out to us in pieces? Why not just give it all over?
Dr. Louise Banks: Well what better way to force us to work together for once?
Agent Halpern: Even if I did believe you, how in the world are you going to get anybody else to play along and give up their data?
Ian Donnelly: We offer ours in return.
Colonel Weber: Yeah?
Agent Halpern: A trade?
Ian Donnelly: It’s a non-zero-sum game.
Ian Donnelly: Look, they’re not our enemy. They’ve made no act of aggression towards us.
Agent Halpern: Maybe this is their way of being aggressive.
Colonel Weber: That’s not the question.
Agent Halpern: Well what is the question?
Colonel Weber: How do we get you back in that room when it’s half a mile straight up?
Agent Halpern: I think our work here is done. It’s in the hands of our superiors now.
Dr. Louise Banks: [to the aliens] I’m sorry. We’re sorry. I need you to, I need you to send a message to the other sites. I don’t, I don’t understand. What is your purpose here? How can you know the future? I don’t, I don’t understand. Who is this child?
8-Year-Old-Hannah: The show is called, “Mommy and Daddy talk to Animals.”
[Banks has flashforward of being with her daughter]
Dr. Louise Banks: What day is it? Do you know, baby?
8-Year-Old-Hannah: Sunday. Are you going to leave me like Daddy did?
Dr. Louise Banks: Hannah, honey, your daddy didn’t leave you. You’re going to see him this weekend.
8-Year-Old-Hannah: He doesn’t look at me the same way anymore.
Dr. Louise Banks: That’s my fault. I told him something that he wasn’t ready to hear.
Dr. Louise Banks: Well, believe it or not, I know something that’s going to happen. I can’t explain how I know, I just do, and when I told your daddy, he got really mad. And he said I made the wrong choice.
8-Year-Old-Hannah: What? What’s going to happen?
Dr. Louise Banks: It has to do with a really rare disease, and it’s unstoppable. Kind of like you are, with your swimming, and your poetry, and all the other amazing things that you share with the world.
8-Year-Old-Hannah: I am unstoppable?
Dr. Louise Banks: Yeah.
[after having a flashforward about her daughter]
Ian Donnelly: I got you. Louise? Louise?
Dr. Louise Banks: I just realized why my husband left me. My husband left me.
Ian Donnelly: You were married? Come on. Let’s get out of here.
Dr. Louise Banks: Yeah?
12-Year-Old-Hannah: Why is my name Hannah?
Dr. Louise Banks: Well, your name is very special because it is a palindrome. It reads the same forward and backward.
Ian Donnelly: What are you doing?
Dr. Louise Banks: Changing someone’s mind. Can you buy me twenty seconds?
Ian Donnelly: We don’t have time for this.
Dr. Louise Banks: No, trust me. Buy me twenty seconds. Do you trust me?
Ian Donnelly: Okay. Yeah.
[as Louise is speaking on the phone in Mandarin to General Shang, Halpern arrives and points his gun at Banks]
Agent Halpern: Dr. Banks, drop the phone now or we shoot!
[Banks continues to speak on the phone]
Agent Halpern: Drop it!
Ian Donnelly: Yeah, I’m sorry!
Agent Halpern: You are committing an act of treason!
Dr. Louise Banks: Yes.
Agent Halpern: Drop it!
Dr. Louise Banks: It’s done. I’m done.
[referring to the alien’s language]
Dr. Louise Banks: I can read it. I know what it is.
Ian Donnelly: What?
Dr. Louise Banks: It’s not a weapon, it’s a gift.
Dr. Louise Banks: The weapon is their language. They gave it to us. Do you know what that means?
Colonel Weber: So we can learn Heptapod, if we survive.
Dr. Louise Banks: If you learn it, when you really learn it, you begin to perceive time the way that they do, so you can see what’s to come. But time, it isn’t the same for them. It’s non-linear.
Dr. Louise Banks: [voice over] So, Hannah. This is where your story begins, the day they departed.
Ian Donnelly: [to Banks] You alright?
Dr. Louise Banks: [voice over] Despite knowing the journey and where it leads, I embrace it, and I welcome every moment of it.
[after the alien spacecrafts have left earth; as they are packing up to leave camp]
Dr. Louise Banks: Ian.
Ian Donnelly: Yeah?
Dr. Louise Banks: If you could see your whole life from the start to finish, would you change things?
Ian Donnelly: Maybe I’d say what I feel more often. I, I don’t know.
Ian Donnelly: You know, I’ve had my head tilted up to the stars for as long as I can remember. You know what surprised me the most? It wasn’t meeting them. It was meeting you.
[Banks embraces Donnelly]
Dr. Louise Banks: I forgot how good it felt to be held by you.
[last lines; in a flashforward we see Banks and Donnelly in a relationship, living together]
Ian Donnelly: You want to make a baby?
Dr. Louise Banks: Yes. Yeah.
Total Quotes: 52