Nov

15

 Of course, the simplest way of apprehending "ARRIVAL" is of a realistic-looking sy-fy dramatic supposition. The disc-shaped on-edge pods ferrying unknown aliens arrive simultaneously above a dozen world cities, resembling truncated elms or sycamores, with free-floating animated roots, more or less. Any number of forerunner sy-fy flicks have featured similar beings, from "War of the Worlds" (2005) to any number of smaller, lower-cost cinematic visitors. This type of alien seems to be a popular concept for this mysterious stranger scenario.

So –Why have they come, all of a sudden?

A melancholy Amy Adams, playing college prof and top language maven Dr. Louise Banks– who appears without makeup throughout the proceedings—a talented linguist contacted by Forest Whitaker, as Colonel Weber (no first name), military official, to try to get through what it is the aliens may be trying to say. Except they don't enunciate—they splootch out finger-y type things that squirt out roundish inky ideographs.. Jeremy Renner, playing Ian Donnelly (what? No PhD? What are they saying here about credentialized scientists in the military mindset?) a recruited scientist, tries to be of collegial assistance, but does not have much to do aside from snappy retorts and functioning as a sanity foil brake on Adams' onscreen audacity.

On the deeper level, coming as it does moments after the election, my immediate link is that these alien beings, separated by a wall of impermeable glass inside the odd space vehicle with no interior furnishings but the separation barrier, represent the current president-elect. He too, to the LA [and DC] crowd, an alien being, apparently, as difficult to grok as an interplanetary essence. An arrival that is unheralded, appearing one day over the landscape, and something that requires 'translation' from the being to Earthlings. Since each culture perceives the aliens as their lens permits them to, most of them regard the appearances as threatening, and begin to act reflexively as if they were being attacked. Prior space films –especially in the 50s and 80s–usually feature US military sending in a fleet of fortified soldiers, blasters at the ready, shooting like gatling guns at the foreign spacecraft. Pre-emptively, before the aliens can exert their mysterious powers on the Earthlings for good or evil..

A hint that the aliens here are sentient and not intending evil comes when a slightly less misty screen capcha shows these trunky beings with warm, sympathetic eyes.

To be sure, world war is a looming possibility as each nation races to decipher what these arrivals want, mean or intend. Such threat also imperils the hard-working linguist and her scientific sidekick. And the continent, should war break out and the aliens turn out to be bad varmints with evil-intentioned trigger splootches. That would be macro-aggressions, we surmise.

It is noteworthy that the key figure sent to decode the language of these untoward visitors is a woman (hint, hint), but assisted by the sensitive and exophthalmic Renner (who also has Trumpish eyes), The drama inheres in the earnest efforts of the protagonists to decode the splotches emitted: Do they betoken threat? Do they mean something less than the imminent catastrophic end of mankind?

We are treated to linguistic theory, good for Indonesian jungle tribes as well as for intergalactic protoplasmic arrangements. Threading through the story are hints of tragic events residing in the Banks character's life, but we don't learn all that much until well into the film.

The acting is convincing, what you need to compel interest. The script is energetic enough. The movie audience with whom we watched the film seemed glued to the onscreen events, though it is more an intellectual effort than an actioner. Just as well.

So my guess is that "Arrival" is the Hollywood Dream Machine's emissary sent to unclued-in Democrats from higher-order Conservatives in order to translate/interpret the Donald Trump phenom creature to the administrators and groundlings of planet America and elsewhere on the globe, where leaders scratch their pates in wonderment and confusion. At just the time when the astonishing revelation of the 2016 US elections breaks worldwide, to the consternation and bafflement of all.

As an interpretive vehicle, it shows how earnest are those who seek desperately to understand this unheralded event and emergence. Who knows? Maybe the Amy Adams character is a stand-in for Martha Raddatz, intrepid and daunting Hildy Johnson-ish reporter. [Raddatz'es true tile: ABC network's Chief Global Affairs Correspondent…]


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