Sci-fi tales about visitors from other planets have been a Hollywood staple since the early days of filmmaking. Late last year, director Denis Villeneuve brought us Arrival, which was nominated for several Academy Awards, including best picture and best directing. The film took the award for best sound editing.  

The film stars Amy Adams as Dr. Louise Banks, a linguistics professor who is sought out by  U.S. Army Col. G.T. Web

er, played by Forest Whitaker, to assist government intelligence in attempting to communicate with the inhabitants of a recently landed spacecraft in Montana. The alien spacecraft is one of 12 that have landed on the planet, bringing anxiety to 11 other regions on the globe. Banks is assisted by Dr. Ian Donnelly, a physicist played by Jeremy Renner. The two manage to communicate with the alien beings, which have seven legs, by way of a written language using symbols. The film’s visual effects supervisor, Louis Morin, does a remarkable job in bringing the extraterrestrial-human interactions to the viewer. While watching, one begins to wonder if this is the way such an event might take place.  

Screenwriter Eric Heisserer is assisted by Ted Chiang, who authored, “Story of Your Life,” on which the film is based. The story, however, flips back and forth between present and flashbacks in Banks’ mind as she remembers her deceased daughter. As a result, the story is slowed and the flashbacks become a distraction in the narrative. The ending of the film adds a bit of confusion which the viewer can’t quite make sense of. It’s like having a jigsaw puzzle with two or three pieces missing. While entertaining, the film is not entirely satisfying.  

The cast is rounded out by actors Tzi Ma, Michael Stuhlbarg and Mark O’Brien. Unless you are a really diehard science-fiction fan, you can pass this one up.