Louise and Ian, a linguist and a scientist, are rushed by helicopter to the site of an alien arrival. Somehow they have to decode the alien communication system, or as Louise would say, have a conversation with them. The US Army, and indeed the world, wants to know ‘What is your purpose on Earth?’
Louise wants to learn their language because it is the heart of how they think. The Army thinks that will take too long.
The whole movie is this kind of juxtaposition of linear and circular thinking. Louise is subjective. She constantly learns through her feelings. She experiences them fully, allows them to permeate her consciousness, and then awakens to the meaning they hold for her.
Ian is all about breaking things down into their base parts to find a logical reason for why they have assembled in the way that they have. He wants to know the operating principle that makes things predictable. And sometimes he finds it.
The armies of the world are all about linear power. They have ways to assert their will even against the will of others. The challenge is to determine where the line is. When is the danger significant enough for them to use major force?
Once an aggressive move is taken, they are geared up to use the advantage of time and take the first strike before there is retaliation. It is unimaginable that there is a love based world where no matter what your behaviour you are worthy of love. Love is offered not because you work hard or you’re family or even because you exist. Love is offered because it is the nature of the person offering.
The news reporters are looking for the elements of danger so they can report them. They are bound by a duty to report the facts and are held accountable by their peers. This keeps a degree of control over the development of fear. The problem is they report the fact in a fear inducing way and leave the viewer to fill in the emotional parts. The biggest problem with the army and the news and most of the men in the movie is that they have a one-world view. It’s actually ironic because they have evidence of another world right in front of them. It exists in the form of the aliens and in the radically different way that Louise sees the situation. They are always looking for evidence of danger. They never awaken to the possibility of love.
But the really scary part is the social media that spins an emotional frenzy of fear and leads to anarchy in the streets.
I don’t want to give any spoilers for this movie so I will say something that will only make sense after you have seen the movie. Consensus decision-making is not the power of a veto. Consensus decision-making is when a group of people decide they will leave no one behind. They will stay in the circular world of connection no matter what the disagreements between people. There is a build -n trust of group wisdom inherent to this standpoint. A trust in the process over productivity: together we will know what is the right thing to do. The answer exists somewhere in the overlap between our independent perspectives.
Finally, I think there is a brave assertion in this movie that men and women view the world differently. One of the best lines in the movie is at the end. I was reminded of the Cherokee Proverb that says ‘The job of a woman is to lead men to their souls. The job of men is to make women safe to walk the Earth.’
Oh, and before I go, I would give this movie two big thumbs up! It is definitely worth watching. Make sure you have time to discuss it afterwards. It is very thought provoking.