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Arrival: giving audiences a more rounded view of time

Time is a concept created out of the logistics of human understanding. All of humanity understands that time has a beginning and an end. It can be used to measure anything from start to finish of a person’s day and from start to finish of an individual’s life. For humanity, time is a linear concept. There is a beginning and an end. But what if time bent? What if the space between start and finish was indefinite? What if there was no beginning and no end? What if, instead of a time line, there existed a time loop? These are the complex questions that the film Arrival answers using a language that transcends all languages: human emotion.

Arrival, directed by Denis Villeneuve, was released into theaters last week and has viewers buzzing about not only the age-old question of extra-terrestrial life in space, but also about the concept surrounding the importance of time and language. Based on the short story, “Story of Your Life,” written by Ted Chiang, Arrival narrates the scientific adventure of Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams), a linguistics professor who is recruited by the army to translate the language of the aliens after their unexpected arrival on earth. With the help of physics professor Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), Adams and her team of professionals must crack the intricate code behind the language of the heptapods and take a better look between the lines of time in order to save the entire human race.

Villeneuve’s science fiction drama is truly a work of art that explores the intense purpose, science and mathematics of languages as well as the complexities of time. Arrival appeals to the emotions and sensitivities of audiences, grappling with what it means to be a living soul looped inside time with the rest of the universe, while also diving deep into the math and physics of how all things are connected inside earth’s non-linear clock. Villeneuve and screen writer Eric Heisserer bring to life a story that bends with time and space and takes viewers on a forever-looped journey so beautifully detailed that audiences will want to see it twice. While the story may be slow-moving, the pace is necessary in order to fully understand the plot.

With stunning cinematography and breath-taking visual effects and designs, Arrival brings to the silver screen a unique angle on the well-known extra-terrestrial stories that film-makers have been producing for decades. Arrival is not your typical alien story; it’s much more than that, reaching into the heart and soul of humanity and pulling out answers to life’s unanswered questions. Dr. Bank’s story is just as vital in the film as the overarching story of the alien heptapods and the two are intricately connected.

Amy Adams tugs at the heart strings of audiences with her extraordinary performance as brilliant and haunted Dr. Louise Banks. Adams breathes life into Chiang’s main character, giving depth and dimension to Banks and her story before, during and after the arrival of the aliens. Jeremy Renner seems to effortlessly replace the bows and arrows of Hawk-Eye for the books and algebraic formulas of Ian Donnelly, a charmingly brainy physics professor who tugs at the brain nerves of audiences, entertaining their curiosity. Adams and Renner complement each other’s characters with exceptional chemistry and the believability of their characters should be credited to not only the talented actors who play them, but the extreme attention to detail paid by the writers, directors and producers of this film.

Arrival is a movie packed with scientific theories and a story that questions our understanding of time and space. Using the language of emotion, this movie appeals to audiences that value faith and viewers who live by the books in the name of science. It’s rare for the world of film to produce a movie that touches the brains as well as the hearts of its audiences and rarer still to have an alien film centered around the story of a human.

Time is a concept created out of the logistics of human understanding. But perhaps human understanding isn’t enough to see the truth. Villeneuve brings audiences a more “rounded” view of time and the universe through his film Arrival, and it’s truly a work of art.


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Victoria Davis

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