This is not your typical alien invasion movie. There is minimal action. Minimal dialogue, which the creators try to make less obvious by playing music throughout the film, but it didn’t help much. This is a “thinking” movie, with a well thought out plot that takes place in multiple times… ie, the past, present, and future. To add to the already mind boggling time line, there is borderline time travel, and plot changes that make you wonder if you are seeing scenes from the past or future. Eventually it all comes together at the end and you get it, but the reveal isn’t so dramatic that it makes up for the fact it took us two hours of slow plot to get there.
Some of the ideas are creative, the language of the alien being circles with varying dots and waves, each meaning a different word. But this is then coupled with stupid moments, like the Army Officer asking the linguist to translate a bunch of grunts from a tape recording. Who can do that? No one. another scene he salutes his troops, um, shouldn’t his enlisted peeps be saluting him first? The main character, Louise, is asked several times to explain herself, and I understand that the directors are having her do this in an effort to explain things to the audience without having to go through the effort of showing them things. But geez, the movie is already slow paced and boring, so could it really have hurt to do a bit more showing and less telling?
My friend put it best, “This movie would make a great book.” Guess what? It was based on a book, by Ted Chiang ‘Story of Your Life.” To which she replied, “Oh, well then is should have stayed a book.”