Based on a short story by Ted Chiang, "Arrival" is a peculiar tale of alien contact. It is an intelligent science-fiction film with a strong central idea and theme that plays throughout brilliantly. Amy Adams stars as a linguistics professor and we see her early on in the film teaching her class. When a number of alien craft appear, hovering just off the surface of the earth, she is called upon to help with efforts to communicate with these aliens. She meets with a physicist, played by Jeremy Renner, and together they head to the craft to attempt to establish a means of communication. The film deals with the idea of understanding and language, and we see this playing out not only between the aliens and humans but between the humans themselves as the military and scientific mindsets clash. Everything is understood through the prism of experience or role, so the captain of the army sees all the alien messages as a threat, while the scientists try to understand what they are saying.
It is hard to talk too much about the film without giving away major plot spoilers. Needless to say this is a film that you should watch if you are a fan of science-fiction and in particular ideas driven stories. The way that the whole film ties together is impressive and it has serious focus. There is very little in the narrative that doesn't serve some purpose. A small cast of characters likewise help to focus your mind on what is important. The cinematography and score do a wonderful job of building this world that is essentially present day earth. The alien's unique style of language, an important part of the whole film, was interesting and the acting was fantastic. Definitely one to check out if you haven't already.