Glad They Showed Up!
When aliens land on Earth and no one knows if their silent, gigantic presence is threatening or no, the US Government asks for help from linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) who manages to communicate with them. Denis Villeneuve directs this deeply thoughtful yet suspenseful drama about alien forces that is as satisfying as cinema can get but falters when it comes to the science.
Sci-Fi fans will love the idea of an all powerful alien force showing up in gigantic contact-lens like stone spacecrafts. Have they been designed by Steve Jobs, you will wonder, because the edges of the doorway are smooth like the apps on your iPhone...You’ll enjoy how armies posture and aim their guns at the things suspended quietly (or should we say ‘menacingly’?). Those who enjoy thoughtful drama will find all the right boxes checked and be wholly satisfied with the beautifully crafted screenplay by Eric Heisserer (If you have read the short story ‘Stories Of Your Life’ by Ted Chiang, you know it is too complex to become a screenplay.).
Amy Adams steals your heart as she struggles with her personal loss and at the same time attempts to fulfil her duty of communicating with the aliens. Jack Renner is at her side as the mathematician/physicist who will bring logic to the whole ‘communicate with the minds’ business.
Denis Villeneuve (who has directed movies such as Sicario, Enemy, Prisoners) gives you many clues into this rather thoughtful Sci-fi thriller. Circles inside circles and events that come full circle... You just have to pay a little more attention than you would in a usual Aliens Vs. Humans science fiction movies you have seen until now. There are no aliens who want to eat humans or are just on some vengeful quest, or in search of some mineral they value more than human life. There are no heroes who will penetrate their alien vessel hovering over Earth and kill them with the flu virus or blow the mothership with clever algorithms…Politicians and people around the world react typically, but you are shown again and again that this movie is different.
In this movie, the Septapod aliens make you think. About time. About relationships. About communication. You unconsciously attempt to analyse their ‘language’ and nod your head to say, ‘I knew that!’ when Amy’s electronic pad translates the words on the screen.
How Amy Adams convinces the authorities as well as the audience that her technique of communication is right is simply brilliant. Her breathlessness and fear seem to be stupidly ‘female’ and out of place in the movie and no explanation is given. Thankfully the doubt is momentary and Louise Adams the Linguist takes over. A couple more places where the science becomes fiction and that jars your senses. But only if you are a geek and see holes in the plot bigger than the opening in the spacecraft.
The music is as awe-inspiring as the size of the alien spacecrafts. It will distract you from the doubts that creep up in your head. You wish for the philosophical end to be different and yet you sit in the theater stunned at the visual feast you have consumed. The next time your phones ring in school or office, you will look up at the sky involuntarily...
If you have teenage children and feel like they’re rather alien when you try and communicate with them, then you will love this movie just a little more than others. And you know that if real aliens did show up, you would be glad Amy Adams is on our side.
(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)