My Rating: 4 stars
I was pretty impressed by this movie. I’m usually a pretty big fan of science fiction. And, the whole “first contact with an alien species” genre is usually pretty rich with potential. That kind of a story usually stirs up all kinds of different emotions—excitement that there really is more out there in the universe, fear of the unknown, anxiety over earthly politics. And, I think this movie did a really good job at dealing with those issues. And, it seemed like a really realistic portrayal too. The story starts with several enormous, alien spacecrafts having arrived to Earth. They’ve installed themselves above various, seemingly random, world sites, and seem to be just hanging out, waiting for humans to figure out how to communicate with them. They seem open to it, but neither side really knows where to start. Enter Amy Adams, who plays a world-famous linguist. With the help of a handful of other scientists, she’ll try to find out why these creatures are here, and what they want.
The interesting thing is that this movie almost sets aside the fact that aliens have just visited our world. It treats that as a fact that everyone has already accepted. Because, the humans seem way more interested in political games than they are with the fact that there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. Our governments are stressing out about what China or Russia are doing, when they should really be more concerned that an advanced, intelligent, alien species has managed to make it all the way to our world. Humans in this story are pretty lucky that the visitors seem to be only interested in peaceful goals, because otherwise, humanity would be screwed. In this narrative, it’s almost a race to see which group of humans will break the code first. The various governments start off cooperating, but as the stress of not making any headway rises, they lose confidence in each other, and start cutting off all communication. So, the countdown for the American group has begun. They need to start meaningfully communicating with their visitor before other countries do something rash, like nuke the visiting ships.
I liked this movie a lot. I liked the realistic political issues that a fanciful science fiction scenario like this would raise. I liked the puzzle posed by the idea of trying to communicate and share information with beings that share no common experience at all. I wouldn’t have the first idea of how to begin that process. I hope that real linguists have some idea of how to go about that. But, the fact that we still haven’t decoded a couple of the ancient human alphabets that we’ve uncovered doesn’t give me much hope. I highly recommend this movie. Don’t go into it expecting an exciting action flick. It’s more of a science movie than a “kicking alien butt” movie. But, I really enjoyed that about this story. And, if you’re in the mood for something this pace, then you will too.