Friday, November 11, 2016
In the first few minutes, we learn that Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams), a linguistics professor at a university, lost her young daughter to cancer. However, throughout the film, she constantly reconnects with her daughter subconsciously and draws inspiration from her, regardless of whether that makes sense. That pretty much set the tone that not everything in the film, including the aliens, can be explained with our conventional logic or mind.
After a dozen of giant alien objects landed around the globe, including one in Montana, the whole world is in panic. These objects look like a piece of magnified dark stoneware turned vertical, and magnificently float just above the ground, without any sound, smell, radiation, or emission. Most nations scramble to assess its danger and try to figure out what they are and where they came from, and of course, why they are here.
While other countries are preparing to take action against these alien objects, Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) from the US military comes to Louise and Dr. Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), a theoretical physicist, for help in communicating with the aliens.
Once they are inside the vertical stoneware, they reach a screen that resembles a foggy mirror in a bathroom. Behind the screen, those octopus-looking aliens start to generate circles similar to Chinese-style ink-calligraphy, without any Chinese characters. What do they mean? Miraculously, the film's heroine Louise is going to translate them with the help from her daughter.
If that doesn't make perfect sense, perhaps it's intentional by the film's director Denis Villeneuve. He seems more interested in creating the intriguing atmosphere than giving the answer to the puzzle. Even by the end of the film, you may still not know why those aliens are here, but you will learn something from the experience, as if you have just come out of Louise's lecture. The subject matter taught in a classroom is not always the most important, but the process of problem solving, the open-mind in facing new ideas and information, and the attitude toward the unknown and uncertainty can be the most valuable thing we can learn in classrooms and lead us to great discovery. In that sense, Amy Adams delivers a terrific lecture as Louise and you should not fail her class if you have paid attention.
Of course, like all lectures, the film has a few moments that are confusing or are less interesting, so you begin to play with your smartphone without paying attention to the lecture. The film's subplot about the international crisis with the Chinese and Russian military is plain laughable. I also could have given Amy Adams a few tutoring sessions to polish her pronunciation in Mandarin because what she speaks doesn't make any sense.
When you come out of the movie, you may wonder: could those aliens have just come to Earth to teach us their language so we can communicate with them in the future? Maybe. We will need that skill in case the newly elected US president makes the planet uninhabitable.