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Arrival Is The Alien Invasion Movie We Need Right Now

At this point in human history, you wouldn’t be alone in thinking that an alien invasion might actually improve our lot here on Earth—like, how much worse of a job could extraterrestrials do at running the place? In Canadian director Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival, humanity confronts an inaugural visit from beyond the borders of our galaxy: 12 alien ships landing simultaneously at various points across the globe, including the Big Sky Country of Montana.

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Every 18 hours, a door in each ship opens to allow our chosen ambassadors in, but despite the best efforts of the world’s scientific and military establishments, a common language can’t be found. And so the central question driving the plot becomes this: if we don’t know what the aliens want, how do we decide what to do about them? Enter: Amy Adams’ character, a linguist and an academic in the midst of dealing with her own microcosm of personal tragedy, now tasked by the US military with devising a way to communicate with the visitors.

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Flanked by Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker, Adams’ Dr. Louise Banks slowly uncovers the intention behind the alien arrival—and that’s when the artful, twisty narrative turns Villeneuve’s film into something the trailers and promo clips never even hint at (something we’re definitely not going to spoil for you here).

Villeneuve has flirted with sci-fi before (anyone who saw the end of 2013’s Enemy won’t forget that) but Arrival is his first full foray into the genre—and yet it’s less about his cool-looking ‘septopod’ aliens and more about human relationships on a worldwide scale. When a global crisis strikes, can we pull it together as a planet, or will arbitrary borders become insurmountable barriers?

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Villeneuve is an optimist. (Or at least he was back when he was making the film.) Arrival will certainly find an audience with sci-fi fans, but its appeal (thanks in large part to Adams’ appeal) is much broader. Its artful take on humanity’s first interactions with extraterrestrials is thoughtful, hopeful, and beautiful to look at—at one point dissolving gracefully into a Terrence Malick-esque sequence that shakes up any certainties we have about space and time.

Following its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, Arrival lands in theatres across the country today, November 11. Watch the trailer below.

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