Out Now On-Demand

Sicario director Denis Villeneuve casts Amy Adams as an expert linguist enlisted by the US government to investigate and communicate with an alien spacecraft, one of a dozen that have landed on Earth.

Aliens have landed, they aren't humanoid, and they don't speak English - or any of our languages. As countries around the world both cooperate with one another and race against each other for a breakthrough, Louise Banks (Adams), physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) and their elite American team must race against time to find answers. 



Best Sound Editing, Academy Awards 2017; Best Sound, BAFTAs 2017

Directed by

Written by

  • Eric Heisserer
  • (based on the short story 'Story of Your Life' by Ted Chiang)

Drama, Science Fiction


Rating: M Mature themes and coarse language


One day Dennis Villeneuve will make a masterpiece. Incendies (2010) came close as dammit. Prisoners (2013) started strong but twisted when it should have stuck. Enemy (2013) was far too esoteric (read pretentious). And Sicario (2015) was superbly crafted but just shy of world-shaking.

For its first 30 minutes this cerebral sci-fi, adapted by Eric (Lights Out) Heisserer from Ted Chiang’s Story Of Your Life, appears to be the answer. In fact, the opening montage, which delicately frames our hero – linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) – in domestic tragedy, might be the most moving since Up. Recalling Terence Malick in their painterly intensity, they’re so powerful they cast a sad shadow over what follows. As in Gravity, you can’t help feeling Banks would positively welcome an apocalypse.

But that’s not what happens. One day, announced by the anxious beep of her students’ cellphones, 12 alien vessels land at strategic points around the globe, and Forest Whitaker’s no-nonsense Colonel Weber asks Banks, along with scientist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), to establish if these visitors really do come in peace. At this point the anticipation is tangible – thrilling, even – and there are moments of tactile tenderness, such as when Banks traces her finger along the bottom of the spacecraft, or our first glimpse of the aliens (recalling Gareth Edwards’ Monsters) appearing through fog. It’s beautiful, but the tension between what’s happening on the world stage, and within the characters, is poorly maintained in the stumbling second act.

It’s a pity, because throughout Johan Johannsson’s sonorous score is lovely; the performers spot on; and the philosophical concerns deep enough to confuse Christopher Nolan. Indeed, until Villeneuve makes another masterpiece – the forthcoming Blade Runner 2049 perhaps? – this will more than do…

Empire (UK)


Arrival is Villeneuve's The Day The Earth Stood Still or Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, and somehow he makes it true to the tropes while also feeling like something new.

Total Film (UK)


A super-smart sci-fi that'll blow your mind and have you on the edge of your seat without recourse to explosions or souped-up fighter jets.

Hollywood Reporter


Anchored by an internalized performance from Amy Adams rich in emotional depth, this is a grownup sci-fi drama that sustains fear and tension while striking affecting chords on love and loss.

The Guardian (UK)


Both heartfelt and very entertaining.

TimeOut (UK)


Plenty of smart ideas and bravura visuals.

Variety (USA)


You feel you’ve had a close encounter with what might have been an amazing movie, but not actual contact.

Village Voice (New York)


For most of its running time, Arrival is entrancing, intimate, and moving - a sci-fi movie that looks not up at the stars but rather deep within. (Sarah Watt)


Incredibly thoughtful and gentle, placing diplomacy over conflict.

NZ Herald (Russell Baillie)


Adams' performance as Dr Louise Banks is terrific. She's the affecting emotional core of this.

emotional encounter with everybeing

This film is fantastic on so many levels - the marketing makes it looks kinda hollywood-surface-sci-fi-earth-invasion however it is so much more. Emotionally involving it takes us to some basic to sentient existence (in here and out there) ideas and how beings of one type communicate their stuff with another type when you have different paradigms of apprehension. Ideas and themes all very relevant and worthy of exploration in our 'today'.

Arrival is highly recommended.

Arrival is directed by Denis Villeneuve, it stars Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker.

Aliens have landed all over Earth and world renowned linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is called in to communicate with the aliens. But when paranoia settles in with the majority of the world’s population and leaders, Louise races against time to translate the alien’s language and discover their purpose on Earth before it’s too late.

Seeing as this movie is directed by Denis Villeneuve the cinematography easily stands out. The way this movie was filmed is incredible as the slow and methodical pace enthralls you from the get go. There are scenes which are breathtakingly tense and they are effective in building up suspense.

Amy Adams is also incredible in her role, from the way she is first introduced to the final moments of the movie, she was consistently great. The movie’s story telling complimented her acting well as the procedural start of the film puts us in her shoes and makes us relate to her early on. The supporting casts are also great, both Forest Whitaker and Jeremy Renner did a great job portraying their roles.

The pacing of the movie is quite slow, especially around the first act and this can take you out of the movie at least for the first fifteen minutes.

Overall Arrival is an incredibly well made film, from the cinematography to the acting to the story. The execution is perfect, the slow methodical pacing grabs you from the start and it fuels your curiosity to keep on watching. The movie is informative in certain ways as it’s expositions are interesting. To it’s core the movie is a study on human nature but it is structured to be not so overwhelming.

If you’re looking for a big budget sci-fi film with explosions this won’t be for you. However if you don’t mind a slow movie and one that makes you think, Arrival is highly recommended.


Found this movie interesting but a little bit weird but it is Sci-Fi, did enjoy it.

Thought-provoking but modest digital effects and weak story line wrapped heavily in American propaganda

Ever since the silent film A Trip to the Moon was shown in 1902 audiences have turned to Science Fiction for creative images of life beyond earth. Generally speaking, Sci-Fi's play on our fears and curiosity about alien threats, or their appearance, or their technology. The film Arrival (2016) takes a different approach by looking at the challenges of language when first contact is made. Under a thick layer of American propaganda, the film also offers a sermon about global cooperation.

The central storyline is simple: twelve huge elliptical extra-terrestial objects arrive on earth and hover just above ground level in twelve locations across the globe. While each nation carries out its own threat assessments, the Americans opt to explore how to communicate with the visitors rather than default to military options. Our heroine is accomplished linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) who leads a team assigned to enter the spacecraft and assess if humans can communicate with the visitors. Paired with physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) they represent the soft and hard faces of science. When contact is made with the tentacled aliens via a glass-like wall it becomes evident that dialogue is possible using a form of circular symbols.

Global panic erupts when linguistic trial and error decodes a symbol for “weapon” and China prepares to attack even though Louise believes the translation is ambiguous. In the midst of the crisis, she is haunted by visions of her daughter who died of a rare disease. The visions gradually transition from memories to predictions. Unlike human linear memory the aliens have circular memory that connects the past, present and future. Her flashbacks and flash-forwards are the key to understanding the film but they add a layer of narrative confusion in the process.

The film’s unsurprising message is that when alien contact occurs the future of the planet will depend on global cooperation. This theme is packaged inside a story that is told with digital effects that are modest by today’s standards. Some will feel let down by the unimaginative spindly alien forms that are kept at a hazy distance within the concrete bunker-like spaceship setting. The back-story of Louise’s personal life is a distracting melodrama and the concept of memory circularity is a weak idea on which to base the plot. That the Hollywood dream-factory makes America the global saviour again is not new. Unlike other visually ground-breaking Sci-Fi’s this one is more about ideas than spectacle. But it is a thought-provoking film about the technology of language and it works well at this level.

It makes worth it sitting the whole thing out

It's emotional and brainy. It's on Earth not in space so has emotional impact. It messes with time but you'll get your head around it.

Human, I am Louise, this is Ian

The story begins right from the start, Louise, with her marriage on the rocks, a beloved child recently deceased is alone, her job at the local university helps her through the dark days. At the same time giant humming oval capsules have entered earth's atmosphere creating panic amongst the world's populace,

Unbeknown to Louise , her expertise as an interpreter will be required by the military to translate alien smoke signals emitting from the sucker like fingers of two creatures inside the capsule. Louise has her good and bad moments from the past, present and looking into the future as her and the team(which includes her ex) attempt to decode the smoke signals,. It's a race against time.

For me it was a great movie, with a neat story plot, a fine cast of acting from Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whittaker and others. What made it even better was the rural locations out in an amazing landscape.

Strong Sci-Fi outing

The drawcard for this movie for me was definitely the premise and the hope that it wouldn't gloss over particularly curious/important matters such as the extra-terrestrials' motives which so many titles seem to not explore (e.g. Prometheus, District 9, Signs,...) . Arrival however is satisfying in this aspect and Amy Adams especially delivers a great performance in a story that never lets up and is not too long. Amy Adams' character's story arc is truly great and there hasn't been a more memorable one in this genre since Matthew Mcconaughey's "Cooper" in Interstellar (2014). Also a highlight was the international setting of the movie - both this and an imaginative angle on the rehashed-alien-visitor formula makes Arrival a fresh entry into the sci-fi world.