Movie Review/Analysis: Arrival



Dir.: Denis Villeneuve

Rating: 10/10

I just watched Arrival for the second time and it was even better upon the second viewing. This review will be very spoiler filled because I wanted to cover a lot of the more subtle and phenomenal things here. Especially specific scenes, but I am going to save the best ones for last.

For starters, this movie plays with time in a very interesting way, which is crucial for these scenes to make sense. Upon understanding the Heptapod’s language, you become able to understand time as they do; as non-linear. We view time as if it were a number line, with one thing happening after another, whereas the aliens view time as if it were a circle; nothing happens after another, but rather everything has happened.

This idea is idea is illustrated in a couple different scenes where she finds answers to questions from remembering a memory from the “past”. In one flashback, Louise’s daughter asks her what the correct term is for a certain scenario. Suddenly in real time, Ian says the phrase “zero-sum-game”. The scene then goes back to Louise remembering the term and telling her daughter. At the time this just seems like an interesting little play on dialogue, almost as if Ian having said that word reminded her of a memory of her daughter. However, as we learn about time in this film, we learn that this flashback is actually a flashforward and Ian saying this actually gave her the answer to her daughter’s question.

The rest of the things I want to discuss happen in the last fifteen or so minutes of the film, so if you haven’t seen the movie and are still reading, stop!

At this point, Louise fully understands the alien language. She is completely able to perceive time as the Heptapods do. She is fully aware of everything that is going to happen in her future, even her husband leaving her and her daughter dying. This realization upon a second viewing brought so many wonderful things to light.

Once the aliens leave Ian says the line to Louise, “The surprise wasn’t meeting them, it was meeting you.” Louise’s face doesn’t show the reaction of a person hopeful, or blushing, or even happy in the slightest. She appears torn apart. Ian sees this as the beginning of something beautiful, where as Louise is debating whether or not being with him is worth having him leave her.

Just before this scene Louise asks the question, “If you knew what was going to happen, would you change things?” Ian gives a seemingly unimportant answer, but this question is huge. Louise knows that if she marries Ian, he will leave her and their daughter will die. Is the joy of the moment worth the terrible pain leading up to it? There is an earlier scene that broke my heart upon the second viewing. When at the lake, Hannah(Louise’s daughter) asks why her father left. Louise says that she told him something he wasn’t ready to hear. This clearly means that she told Ian that Hannah is going to die of an unstoppable disease. Ian then responds with “You made the wrong choice.” When this line is said, we aren’t yet able to understand what that choice exactly is, but we now know exactly what this choice is.

One of the very last scenes of the movie shows Ian asking Louise if she wants to make a baby. Her face is initially uneasy and even scared. The music swells to hopefulness as we see flashforwards of their wonderful life with Hannah. We see all of the happy times they spent together, and through tears she smiles and says yes. She decides that all of the joy she got from their time together was irreplaceable, even if Ian would later disagree.

Honestly I got so many chills writing and reliving this. Upon my first viewing I loved this movie, but after a second viewing I can honestly say that it is one of my favorite movies of all time.

I give Arrival a perfect 10/10.


2 thoughts on “Movie Review/Analysis: Arrival

  1. Great review Ty. Amazing insights. Can you imagine a world in which we all were “gifted” with knowledge of the future? What a crazy mixed up world we would live in. Thankfully we were created to live one day at a time, one step at a time, one breath at a time. Just knowing that there will be joy and sorrow without specicifics is all that we humans can bear.


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