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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Denis Villeneuve|
|Screenplay by||Eric Heisserer|
|Based on||"Story of Your Life"
by Ted Chiang
|Music by||Jóhann Jóhannsson
|Edited by||Joe Walker|
|Distributed by||Sony Pictures Releasing (International)|
|Box office||$195.3 million|
Arrival is a 2016 American science fiction film directed by Denis Villeneuve and adapted by Eric Heisserer from the 1998 short story and novella "Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang. It stars Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker.
Arrival had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on September 1, 2016, and was released in the United States and Canada on November 11, 2016, in IMAX by Paramount Pictures. The film has grossed more than $194 million worldwide and the storyline, atmosphere, and Adams's performance were all praised. The American Film Institute selected it as one of its ten Movies of the Year, and it has been nominated for numerous awards, among them eight Oscar nominations for the 89th Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay. It also received Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress for Adams and Best Original Score.
In what appears to be a flashback, linguist Louise Banks is caring for her adolescent daughter, who dies of cancer. While she is lecturing at a university, twelve extraterrestrial spacecraft appear across the Earth. U.S. Army Colonel Weber asks Louise to join Los Alamos National Laboratory physicist Ian Donnelly to decipher their language and find out why they have arrived. The team is brought to a military camp in Montana near one of the spacecraft, and makes contact with two seven-limbed aliens on board. They call the extraterrestrials "heptapods", and Ian nicknames them Abbott and Costello. Louise discovers that they have a written language of complicated circular symbols, and she begins to learn the symbols that correspond to a basic vocabulary. As she becomes more proficient, she starts to see and dream vivid images of herself with her daughter, and of their relationship with the father.
When Louise asks what the aliens want, they answer: "offer weapon". A similar translation of "use weapon" is made by one of the other sites. Fear of a potential threat from the aliens leads other nations to close down communication on the project, and some prepare their militaries for attack. However, Louise argues that the symbol interpreted as "weapon" might have an alternative translation, such as "tool" or "technology".
Rogue U.S. soldiers plant explosives in the spacecraft. Unaware, Louise and Ian re-enter. The aliens give them a much larger and more complex message. Abbott ejects Ian and Louise from the craft as the explosion occurs, which leaves them unconscious. Louise and Ian come round in the camp as the military prepares to evacuate, and the spacecraft moves higher above the ground. Ian works out that the symbols relate to the concept of time, and that the message is one-twelfth of the whole "gift". They conclude that the aliens must want nations to cooperate.
Meanwhile, China notifies the world that its military is planning to attack the spacecraft off its coast. Louise rushes back to the spacecraft in Montana, which sends down a shuttle to take her inside. She meets Costello, who communicates that Abbott is dying. Louise asks about her visions of a daughter, and Costello explains that she is seeing the future (revealing that her "visions" were not flashbacks but flashforwards). Costello also communicates that they have come to help humanity by sharing their language, which is the "weapon" or "tool" because it changes perception of time. The aliens know that 3000 years into the future they will need humanity's help in return.
Louise returns as the camp is being evacuated. She has a vision of herself at a future United Nations reception, being thanked by General Shang for convincing him to suspend China's military attack. He explains that she had called his private mobile telephone. He shows her its number, which he says he knows he must do without understanding why. In the present, Louise steals a satellite phone and calls Shang, but realizes she does not know what to say. Her vision continues with Shang explaining that she had convinced him by repeating his wife's last words in Mandarin, which he tells Louise.[nb 1] This convinces Shang in present time, and the Chinese attack is called off and the other nations resume contact with each other. All of the spacecraft disappear from Earth.
When packing to leave the camp, Ian admits his love for Louise. They discuss life choices, and whether they would change them if they knew the future. Louise foresees that Ian will father her daughter Hannah, whose name is an intentional palindrome, but will leave her after discovering that she knew their daughter would die before adulthood. Nevertheless, when Ian asks Louise if she wants to have a baby, she agrees.
Villeneuve had wanted to make a science fiction film for some time, although he "never found the right thing". Meanwhile, screenwriter Eric Heisserer had unsuccessfully been pitching an adaptation of Ted Chiang's short story "Story of Your Life" for years, and by the time producers Cohen and Levine approached him about a potential sci-fi project, he had largely given up on the idea. Cohen and Levine, however, introduced Villeneuve to the novella, which the director immediately took to, although his work on Prisoners meant that he did not have the time to properly adapt it into a screenplay. Cohen and Levine were able to get a first draft completed, which Villeneuve later reworked into a finished script. Villeneuve ended up changing the title, partly because the resulting script became so far removed from the short story, as well as sounding "more like a romantic comedy". Although Villeneuve remembered going through "hundreds" of possible titles, the eventual title was the first one the team had suggested.
Heisserer said that in earlier versions of the script, the film had a different ending. Originally the gift the heptapods leave us are "blueprints to an interstellar ship, like an ark of sorts" that would enable us to help them in 3000 years. But after the release of Christopher Nolan's film Interstellar in 2014, Heisserer and Villeneuve agreed that that would not work. It was decided that the heptapod's gift would be what was "there in front of us, ... the power of their language."
Jeremy Renner joined the film on March 6, 2015, to play a physics professor. Forest Whitaker signed on in April 2015, with Michael Stuhlbarg joining as CIA Agent Halpern that June. Linguistics professor Dr. Jessica Coon was brought on to consult with Amy Adams.
The script used language designed by artist Martine Bertrand (wife of the production designer Patrice Vermette), based on the scriptwriter's original concept. Stephen Wolfram and Christopher Wolfram analysed it to provide the basis for Louise's work in the film. Three linguists from McGill University were consulted. The sound files for the alien language were created with consultation from Morgan Sonderegger, a phonetics expert. Lisa Travis was consulted for set design during the construction of the protagonist's workplaces. Jessica Coon, a Canada Research Chair in Syntax and Indigenous Languages, was consulted for her linguistics expertise during the revision and finalization of the script.
Jóhann Jóhannsson began writing the score as shooting started, drawing on the screenplay and concept art for his inspiration. He developed one of the main themes in the first week using vocals and experimental piano loops.  Max Richter's piece "On the Nature of Daylight" opens and closes the film.
A teaser trailer was released in August 2016, followed the next week by the first official trailer. Paramount Pictures released a series of promotional posters, with one showing a UFO hovering above a Hong Kong skyline that included Shanghai's Oriental Pearl Tower. The inaccuracy angered Hong Kong social media users. The posters were withdrawn and a statement attributed the inaccuracy to a third party vendor.
In May 2014, Paramount acquired U.S. and Canadian distribution rights. Shortly after, Sony Pictures Releasing International and Stage 6 Films acquired some international distribution rights. The film had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on September 1, 2016. It also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival, and the BFI London Film Festival. The film was released on November 11, 2016.
As of February 22, 2017[update], Arrival has grossed $100 million in the United States and Canada and $95.4 million in other countries for a worldwide total of $195.3 million, against a reported production budget of $47 million.
Arrival was released alongside Almost Christmas and Shut In, and was originally expected to gross around $17 million from 2,317 theaters in its opening weekend, with the studio projecting a more conservative debut of $12–15 million. The film made $1.4 million from Thursday night previews at 1,944 theaters and $9.4 million on its first day, pushing projections up to $24 million. It ended up grossing $24.1 million over the weekend, finishing third at the box office. In its second weekend, the film grossed $12.1 million (a drop of 49.6%), and in its third made $11.5 million (dropping just 5.6%). Following receiving its eight Oscar nominations, the film returned to 1,221 theaters on January 27, 2017 (an increase of 1,041 from the week before) and grossed $1.5 million (up 357.4% from its previous week's $321,411).
Arrival received acclaim from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 94% based on 302 reviews, with an average rating of 8.4/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Arrival delivers a must-see experience for fans of thinking person's sci-fi that anchors its heady themes with genuinely affecting emotion and a terrific performance from Amy Adams." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 81 out of 100, based on 52 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.
Brian Tallerico, from RogerEbert.com, gave the film three out of four: "It's a movie designed to simultaneously challenge viewers, move them and get them talking. For the most part, it succeeds." At Time.com, Sam Lansky described it as "sophisticated, grownup sci-fi: a movie about aliens for people who don't like movies about aliens." The Atlantic writer Christopher Orr said that: "Arrival, the remarkable new film by Denis Villeneuve, begins aptly enough with an arrival—though perhaps not the kind you would expect." IGN reviewer Chris Tilly gave it a score of 8.5 out of 10, saying: "Arrival is a language lesson masquerading as a blockbuster, though much more entertaining than that sounds. The film features shades of Interstellar, Contact and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but never feels derivative. Rather it’s smart, sophisticated sci-fi that asks BIG questions, and does a pretty good job of answering them."
British film critic Robbie Collin gave Arrival five out of five, calling it: "introspective, philosophical and existentially inclined – yet it unfolds in an unwavering tenor of chest-tightening excitement. And there is a mid-film revelation – less a sudden twist than sleek unwinding of everything you think you know – that feels, when it hits you, like your seat is tipping back."
The UK newspaper The Guardian rated it as the third best film of 2016. Critic Catherine Shoard said that it "amounts to something transcendent; something to reignite your excitement for cinema, for life." Numerous other issues, including io9, Den of Geek, WhatCulture, Mir Fantastiki, The Atlantic, Blastr, Digital Trends named Arrival the best movie of 2016.
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