Science fiction is one of the genres that I hesitantly approach because I tend to either over-analyze the science or look for a profound philosophical message at the end and I almost always end up dissatisfied. Moreover, when it comes to a sci-fi I am always aware of the fictional nature of the movie and thereby lack any sort of intimacy towards the characters or the movie itself. In that particular aspect, ‘Arrival’ is a brilliant exception. It is so incredibly intimate (for a sci-fi) that it manages to distract the audience from being pedantic about the minute details of the science jargon. In any case, it has a quite confusing and an interesting ending that poses a myriad of questions. Let’s dive in and see what happened.
Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD!
The movie opens with what appears to be flashbacks of Louise (Amy Adams) at various stages of her daughter growing up and eventually dying young of cancer. The father of the child is conspicuously absent in the memories. In the present, Louise is a linguistics professor at a university. The story kicks off when twelve extra-terrestrial vehicles show up at different locations across the globe. As an expert linguist who already has security clearance, Louise gets an opportunity to decipher the voices of the extra-terrestrial beings in the vehicle that has appeared in Montana, US. Along with a team including a physicist Ian (Jeremy Renner), she interacts with the two heptapods (seven-limbed beings) in the spacecraft, whom they name Abbott and Costello. While co-operating with all the twelve teams, Louise finally manages to learn the language of the heptapods.
Ever since her first encounter with the heptapods, Louise gets flashbacks of her daughter occasionally. She got familiarized with the heptapod language and even started dreaming in it. As the global tension intensifies, some countries decide to stop working together and take an aggressive turn against the visitors. While the teams are cut-off from one another, Louise and company finally successfully ask heptapods the million dollar question: “What is your purpose on earth?” They casually replied: “Offer weapon”. For obvious reasons, the word weapon spooks everyone. Louise tries to calm everyone down by pointing out how the heptapods might not be able to differentiate between the words ‘tool’ and ‘weapon’ , to no avail. Louise and Ian decides to go for another session with the heptapods to clarify their answer.
Meanwhile, a few rogue soldiers, aggravated by the media and the ‘weapon’ fiasco, plant bombs in the spacecraft while Louise and Ian are inside clearing up their questions. If the heptapods were as dumb as human beings, this could easily have been the Sarajevo incident that instantly led to a destructive inter-species war. Fortunately, they weren’t. They leave an intricate and complicated message at the end and eject Louise and Ian just before the explosion after which the spacecraft goes up higher from above the ground denying the team a chance for further interaction.