With some exceptions, movies where the aliens suddenly invade the earth, are a bit naive in the present days as well as missing any trace of scientific plausibility.
The opening of the film Arrival, belongs to this category, but soon, it evolves into something different and partially original, dealing with an interesting subject (that i’ve never seen in other works) like the communication difficulties between humans and an intelligent and evolved alien species.
The movie describes in detail the long process required to identify and decode the signals used by large “seven legged” aliens (the choice of non-humanoid creatures, is definitely one of the virtues of this work) to communicate each other and with human beings, not neglecting to introduce interesting and difficult concepts like the non-linear writing.
The two experts selected by the military to clarify the situation; the linguist Louise (who seems to have lost a young daughter due to an incurable disease) and the theoretical physicist Ian, appear immediately as two attracting opposites; sentimental, romantic and imaginative the first one; analytical, rational and cold the other. It is predictable that between them, a special bond will create and is also expected that they will be (especially Louise) the people who will solve the problem; problem that consists mainly in determining the intentions of the visitors towards the earth and its inhabitants.
Going on, you will find that the aliens are able to live and “understand” the time in a non-linear manner, just like they do with the writing and tey will give Luise this talent.
Armed with this new power, Louise will manages to avoid an attack by those terrestrial forces hostile towards the aliens.
At this point the story takes a turn that,i didn’t like; it becomes some kind of invective on eugenics, by telling us that the story of Louise's daughter, which at first appears narrated through a series of flashbacks, was actually a vision of the future and that Ian will be her father. The man, kept in the dark from Louise about the daughter’s deadly disease, decides to abandon them both, in order to minimise the suffering that the woman has deliberately chosen for herself and her daughter.
As i said, the interesting and innovative part of this work is the one about communications and i found it disappointing that it was not developed better and in a more original way, for example, without getting the aliens aliens to the earth (The communication could have happened remotely, with a time lag of the amount of years required by the signal to travel the distance). One more sore point are the several slow motion scenes and dramatic musics in the final part, which makes it a bit slow and boring.
In short, a mix of new and old stuff that, as often happens, doesn’t develop its full potential.