** SPOILERS **
A tale of first contact with otherworldly aliens like no other, Denis Villeneuve's Arrival couldn't arrive in theaters at a more opportune time. Deliberate, dream-like, and arresting, Arrival's heady themes address xenophobia, trust, loss, memory, and international cooperation laboring against militarized fear and ignorance to achieve an understanding with creatures as different from human beings as you can imagine. When twelve 1,500 foot tall space craft (dubbed "Eggs") suddenly materialize over twelve random locations around the world, brilliant linguist Amy Adams is recruited by US military liaison Forest Whitaker make contact with the aliens in the Egg hovering over rural Montana. Adams is joined by theoretical physicist Jeremy Renner; together they are charged with the daunting task of deciphering the language of the aliens, dubbed Heptapods.
As far as human-alien negotiations go, Arrival is the polar opposite of when Adams met the handsome farm boy from Krypton in Man of Steel. The Heptapods are thoroughly inhuman. They're like enormous Dr. Zoidbergs from Futurama; octopus-like creatures without visible eyes, which communicate by making circular symbols with octopus ink, like an otherworldly Etch-a-Sketch. But why are they here? What are the Heptapods trying to tell humanity? Adams is haunted by memories of her daughter, whom she lost to cancer. But are they memories at all, or something more? Arrival carefully reveals the answers, while lobbing the intriguing notion that by learning another language, one can literally re-wire their mind to achieve a different, heightened form of perception. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking as the unprecedented collaboration between the other nations also communicating with the Heptapods collapses as China, gripped with fear, declares war on the alien ships, causing other governments to follow suit. It's up to Adams to find a way to literally prevent a war of the worlds, building to Arrival's astounding conclusion. Arrival is a sci-fi ray of hope, of patience and intelligence outweighing fear and ignorance, ideas and truths to ponder and positively act upon during these darkening days of our own time.