Arrival (2016) is a sci-fi film on how a linguist manages to understand and communicate with aliens who have made their arrival at 12 different locations on earth. Her mission assigned by US Government is to figure out the purpose of their arrival on earth; while doing so she not only faces linguistic hurdles but has to complete her job before hostile nations like China decide to blow up the alien spacecraft and start a war. This alien’s film is taken by Director Denis Villeneuve with a difference, we see alien spacecraft and catch a glimpse of the aliens but the visuals are noticeably kept simple, for example, the alien spacecraft are nothing but giant egg-shaped stone-like objects. The spacecraft and aliens are shown briefly, only to keep the story flowing and not to impress you in any way.
When our thinking and philosophy are only about the human race the problems on earth seems daunting and life itself may seem purposeless; but just by adding another species from a different galaxy, you get to observe our own behaviour from a distance and obtain some clarity. For that, I find stories of aliens like in Star Trek to be an opportunity for introspection and Arrival gives you plenty to ponder about. In the film the nations across the world who were enthusiastically collaborating to crack the alien code, turn hostile and go incognito when they hear the word “weapon” – a subtle way of showing how nations value their individual military prowess even over the complete annihilation of our planet. Of course, we have seen countries behave like this without any rationale in discussions about climate change or nuclear arsenals, so it’s not unreasonable to expect they will behave the same way when we encounter aliens in future.
A must watch for 2016.
Side note: In this interesting article, you see how scientist are using statistics to distinguish between random sounds and intelligent communications. The obvious way to validate any such model will be to test it on species on earth other than humans and that’s exactly what Laurance R. Doyle, organizer of the Quantum Astrophysics Group at the SETI Institute and his team are doing.