So, Arrival is about an alien invasion. But it's not a Race-to-Witch-Mountain or The-5th-Wave kind of movie (I gave an A to both of those movies as well). Well, actually, it's sort of like Race to Witch Mountain in terms of the reaction to the public (The 5th Wave is more like a public extinction film.) Twelve levitating alien ships have landed in several parts of the world with no similarities known on those parts. And nobody knows why they've landed and what could be coming and what they might be bringing but the human race is panicking and their inner violence is kicking in as controversies arise. The government turns to a lady named Louise who teaches geography and interpreting different languages. She is taken over to one of the ships to meet the aliens and find out why they came.
Immediately, something that was very different from other alien invasions, like the films I mentioned before (plus the Transformers movies, and actually a lot of alien movies the more I think about it) is that the aliens don't speak English. Their language is like...well, think of it like someone speaking Spanish trying to learn Mandarin, and vice versa. The movie doesn't have much of a chance to let us visualize the scrolls and interpret the language for ourselves. But that would've either not been a good movie or a movie about 4 or 5 hours. Still, I thought the movie could've given us a chance to have better guesses at what they were doing. But that's pretty much the only thing I was at fault with in the entire film!
Everyone else I've seen who's talked about this movie say that this film really makes you think, and I can't disagree. But it does more than just make you think. It's neat how technically, not much is actually happening, and yet the tension is as high up and sideways as the heroes are when they are up trying to talk to these creatures. It also analyzes, as I said, our instinct for violence and our instinct to divide up in big situations. If aliens came and the government wasn't taking the action you desired, what would you do? Start an angry mob? Post on Facebook? Whether humans were trying to talk to them calmly and interpret like Louise and her assistants are doing or obliterate the aliens immediately with weaponry, both options would've caused rebellions. That's one of the examples of why this movie makes you think.
Most of the tension comes from the aliens we see. I won't spoil how they look but let's just say we are like cockroaches talking up to supposed grizzly bears, and we cockroaches aren't quite as invincible, and yet some of us are just as nasty.
I also think everyone will never see the ending and the resolution coming. Let's just say it gives us quite a mixed reaction about the main character, but for the mood this movie makes, it fits. Arrival is a movie that's able to take a somewhat overused premise and make it its own while simultaneously having a simple premise yet feeling completely original!