Some movies can be summarized without divulging the major themes.
Arrival (PG-13, 2016) – which begins streaming Oct. 28 on Hulu and Amazon Prime – is not one of those films. It’s the most thought-provoking alien invasion movie you’ve ever seen and perhaps the best one, too, despite not having a single laser shot, gun battle or abduction.
So, if you prefer watching your movies without knowing even minor spoilers, then stop reading right now. But if you want to be convinced why you should watch Arrival, then stay put.
Got it? You’ve been warned!
Arrival tells the story of translator Louise Banks (Amy Adams), who is one of the top linguistic experts in the world and whose knowledge is needed when gigantic, egg-shaped spacecraft touch down worldwide. On paper, Banks’ task is seemingly simple: communicate with the aliens and learn why they have come to Earth.
But in reality, her job is impossible. That’s because the aliens and humans have no common frame of reference. How do you communicate with a creature who has lived its entire life in another galaxy? Our language sounds like, well, English. Their language sounds like a combination of dolphin sounds and organ music.
Banks, though, isn’t the only linguist on the job. Language experts worldwide are trying to communicate, and when several of them decide that the aliens are trying to say “weapon,” panic ensues. Banks argues that the aliens instead were trying to say “tool,” but can she convince everyone before a cosmic war ensues?
Arrival is based on the 1998 novel “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang, and it will challenge what you think about cultural and language barriers. The lessons, though, go much deeper than that.
At its core, Arrival is a movie about the blessings and trials of life, as it urges us to emphasize the former rather than the latter. It also poses a mind-bending question: Would you (and could you) live your life with joy if you knew what trials lay ahead. And is a life capped by a tragic death worth the pain? Arrival is not faith-based, but its view of life approaches that of a heavenly perspective. It also includes a pro-life message.
By Hollywood standards, Arrival is a mostly clean movie, with no sexuality and about four coarse words (f-word, b—-rd, h-ll, OMG).
I’ve watched Arrival only once, but I’m wanting to watch it again.
Also streaming in October:
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (PG, 2005). A young boy named Charlie wins a chocolate factory tour, led by the unusual Willy Wonka (Johnny Depp). Based on a book by Roald Dahl. Rated PG for quirky situations, action and mild language. Oct. 1.
Smurfs: The Lost Village (PG, 2017). Smurfette (Demi Lovato), Brainy, Clumsy and Hefty set out to find a village of previously unknown Smurfs. The first half is pretty good. The second half? Not so much. Rated PG for some mild action and rude humor. Oct. 20.
Meet The Robinsons (G, 2007). A intelligent 12-year-old orphan boy seeks to build a machine to learn more about his birth mom. Oct. 23.
March of the Penguins (G, 2005). Emperor penguins risk their lives to protect their eggs and then their young in frigid Antarctica. One of the best nature documentaries ever made, as it shows God’s creation in all its glory. Narrated by Morgan Freeman. Oct. 1.
Love Finds You in Valentine (Unrated, 2016). A California woman inherits a Nebraska ranch with the intent to sell it, but falls in love with the area (and perhaps a cowboy, too) after she visits it. Originally aired on the inspirational UPtv channel. Unrated. Oct. 1.
Priceless (PG-13, 2016). A man in need of a job agrees to drive a truck cross-country no-questions-asked, only to discover the cargo includes two women. It’s a faith-based film that spotlights human trafficking. Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material involving human trafficking, and some violence. Oct. 29.
Other notables: Tiny House Hunters: Seasons 1-2 (Oct. 1); Property Brothers: Season 5 (Oct. 1); America’s Funniest Home Videos: Season 28 (Oct. 9).
Fight for Space (G, 2016). Experts discuss the past and future of space exploration and explain the benefits it brings the United States. Documentary. Oct. 18.
Priceless (PG-13, 2016). See above. Oct. 29.
— by Michael Foust
Foust has covered the film industry for more than a decade. Visit his website, MichaelFoust.com