Arrival (2016) - Plot Summary Poster

(II) (2016)


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  • A linguist works with the military to communicate with alien lifeforms after twelve mysterious spacecraft appear around the world.

  • Linguistics professor Louise Banks leads an elite team of investigators when gigantic spaceships touchdown in 12 locations around the world. As nations teeter on the verge of global war, Banks and her crew must race against time to find a way to communicate with the extraterrestrial visitors. Hoping to unravel the mystery, she takes a chance that could threaten her life and quite possibly all of mankind.

  • This movie is about a linguist with military security clearance using her skills to decipher and communicate with alien beings who have landed all around the planet. Why did they come here? What do they want? Will they destroy us or will mankind continue to be it's own worst enemy?

  • Aliens have landed on Earth, in 12 different locations. Language professor Louise Banks joins a US army team at one of the locations, in Montana. Her job is to try to learn the aliens' language and enable communication with them. Through regular meetings with two of the aliens she starts to compile a record of the aliens' "language" - a series of drawn symbols. The important question is - are they friend or foe? Other nations with alien landings are starting to view them as a threat, making it a race against time as war with the aliens could erupt at any moment.

  • Twelve bizarre and mysterious alien crafts situate themselves around the world, an expert linguist, Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is recruited by the military to construct a means of conversing with the aliens to discover whether they arrived with peaceful or threatening intentions. The nations of this world always think things that occur unexpectedly have destructive tendencies. Time is non-linear for the aliens, and they have different means of communication.

  • In the clear skies of Montana, in an unprecedented worldwide incident of simultaneous first contact with extraterrestrial life forms, an ominous alien pod out of twelve in total, comes to a standstill, hovering only a few feet over the green prairies. Is this some kind of peaceful contact? Inevitably, as panic ensues, Colonel G.T. Weber recruits a team of various experts including the esteemed linguistics and dialectology Professor Dr Louise Banks and the theoretical physicist Dr Ian Donnelly, burdening them with the impossible task to decipher a coded conversation with the intergalactic visitors. But when all attempts to communicate prove fruitless, a practical, yet very important question will arise: does humanity have enough vocabulary to understand the aliens' answer before a new global war sparks?

  • Linguist Louise Banks's daughter, Hannah, dies in adolescence from an incurable illness. Twelve extraterrestrial spacecraft appear at twelve locations across Earth. A U.S. Army officer, Colonel G.T. Weber, recruits Banks and physicist Ian Donnelly to find out why the aliens have come. Weber takes them to an army encampment in Montana near one of the craft. On board, Banks and Donnelly make contact with two seven-limb-ed aliens, whom they call "heptapods"; Donnelly nicknames them Abbott and Costello. Banks and Donnelly begin researching their written language of complicated circular symbols. As Banks studies the language, she starts to have visions of a child who seems to be her daughter..


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • The film starts with the voice of Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) speaking to someone. We see moments of Louise with her daughter Hannah, from her birth, through her childhood years, up until her death at a young age from a fatal disease (presumably cancer).

    Louise is a linguist and language professor. She begins her lecture to a small class when the students' phones go off. One student asks Louise to turn on the news. It is reported that in at least 12 sites around the world, there are enormous extraterrestrial vessels touching down.

    The next day, Louise is visited in her office by Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) to utilize her linguistic skills to attempt to communicate with the aliens. At night, Weber shows up in a helicopter to escort Louise to the base. She joins them and meets a theoretical physicist named Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner).

    The team arrives at the Montana landing site, while the other 11 sites around the world have bases set up as well and are continuously updating each other on any progress. Louise, Ian, and several others are brought up to the top of the pod, where the lack of gravity allows them to stand before the glass-like barrier that keeps the aliens back. Two aliens appear. They are surrounded by a mist and they appear as large tentacled creatures (later called "heptapods"). Louise attempts to communicate with them by writing "human" on a board. One of the creatures emits a black cloud that forms a circular symbol. In a bold move, Louise removes her hazmat suit, attempting to gain their trust. She press her palm to the barrier. One of the creatures extends a limb and presses it against the barrier in an imitation of Louise's gesture. After Ian shucks his hazmat suit, he decides to call the two aliens "Abbott and Costello."

    Tensions rise around the country as uncertainty in the heptapods' intentions has sparked panic, causing people to loot and riot.

    As the sessions go on, the team records the symbols produced by the heptapods to determine which symbols are translations of the words that Louise has been teaching them ("love", "time", etc.). Later when Louise "touches" them again, she starts to see visions of Hannah.

    China's General Shang (Tzi Ma) doesn't trust the aliens and has his team deviate from the set plan by ceasing communication of the intelligence they gather to the other world sites. The Chinese site attempts to communicate with the heptapods through a game of mahjong.

    Louise starts to experience dreams in the alien language, while still seeing memories of Hannah as a child showing Louise a drawing of her parents in a TV show she made up. Hannah asks Louise if it's her fault that her father left, but Louise assures her that's not the case. In the present, Louise questions the aliens as to who this girl is.

    The aliens deliver a message that is translated to "Use weapon", which generates even greater tension among the other sites. The Chinese deliver an ultimatum to the aliens - they have 24 hours to leave, or the military will initiate a strike. Several other sites gear up to do the same thing, while the sites all disconnect from each other. Louise tells Weber that they need to make sure the aliens know the difference between a weapon and a tool.

    Louise and Ian go up into the vessel by themselves, unaware that some of the soldiers placed a C4 bomb in there. As they try to communicate with the heptapods, Abbott starts to create a message with hundreds of tiny, scattered symbols. As the bomb is ready to detonate, Abbott drops Louise and Ian from the vessel as it explodes. Neither are seriously injured but both are unconscious.

    Louise awakens in the base camp, having suffered a mild concussion. With a strike set to happen, she and Ian race to decode Abbott's message. Ian deduces that many of the symbols for "time" are scattered, but he can't exactly determine what it all means. Agent Halpern (Michael Stuhlbarg) then tells the others about how severe the situation is since Russia has reportedly executed one of their own in order to keep their intelligence secret.

    Louise rushes toward the vessel, which sends down a small pod to take her up to the ship. She comes face-to-face with Costello, who tells her that Abbott is dying from the explosion. Costello emits more black symbol smoke, causing Louise to remember Hannah again. Costello then helps Louise to realize that the heptapods' language is meant to be their tool, or rather, a gift to the humans. By understanding their language, they are able to see into the future. It is revealed here that all of Louise's memories of her daughter Hannah weren't flashbacks, but flash-FORWARDS. Costello explains that they were sent to give humans their language so that they may help the aliens in 3,000 years time.

    Eighteen months into the future, Louise and Shang will meet face-to-face, and he will express gratitude for her work and efforts, which ended up convincing him just what the alien's true intentions were. Louise takes Halpern's satellite phone and contacts Shang to his personal number. She and Ian lock themselves away as she tries to send a message in which she tells Shang his wife's dying words.

    The Chinese military decides to stand down as reports start flooding in from all over the world. The vessels all rise from the ground and leave Earth in a cloudy mist. Louise and Ian watch them leave. Ian says that the greatest thing about the whole incident wasn't meeting the aliens, it was meeting Louise. Louise then sees more visions of herself with Hannah, but this time with Ian in the picture. They are to become a couple that will eventually become parents to Hannah. In the present, Louise and Ian embrace, and she tells him she forgot what it was like to be held by him.

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