The film opens in the past, Dr Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is playing with her daughter Hannah who, in her teen years, succumbs to cancer. Fast-forward to the present, Dr Banks is lecturing to her students when social media informs them that 12 egg-shaped UFOs have landed across the globe.
Of course, no one knows why they are here — are they invading or are they investigating?
Dr Banks, a world-renowned linguist, is enlisted by Colonel Weber (Forest Whittaker) to decipher and decode the strange sounds coming from the UFO in Montana. With theoretical physicist Professor Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) they both are taken to the site to try to communicate with the ship.
They work well together in ways the Colonel and the CIA don’t exactly approve of. Every 18 hours, an area at the base of the ship opens up which allows the team to enter the vessel and to set up communications. This doesn’t appear to worry the aliens. More than that, it appears they are welcome.
The extraterrestrials are named Heptapods because of their tentacles, which shoot out an inky liquid to form unusual circles on a screen — their means of communication, together with the strange sounds they emit.
Months go by, with the team trying to have a ‘relationship’ with the visitors, but as Dr Banks develops an understanding of their language, she also has more and more flashbacks and visions of her dead daughter Hannah. We never meet nor see Hannah’s father, but there is mention of him being a scientist… Mmmmmm, the plot thickens!
Some of the language is deciphered as meaning either ‘gift’ or ‘weapon’. The Government panics and fearing an attack by the aliens, sends the entire team home and the military arrive to take over the site.
Dr Banks sneaks away to have one last attempt at communication and she succeeds (of course). Apparently, 3,000 years into the future, the aliens will require help from humans and to do this we need to be able to understand their language. Dr Banks learns how to manipulate and decipher their inky substance and is able to communicate with them. They reward her with an ability to travel through time.
Meanwhile, China and Russia have become worried by the aliens’ perceived threats and is preparing to launch hostilities. Dr Banks is now able to see events in another time frame, she uses this to give the Chinese ruler some information only he knows, to persuade him to believe in her and to hold off the attack.
It is Adams who holds your attention every time she is on screen, which is through the whole film. This is not an ‘entertaining’ film in the sense you can sit back, munch on your popcorn and enjoy aliens invading earth, but one which you have to think about — long after you’ve left the cinema.
ROK’S RATINGS: 3.5 glasses of bubbly
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