Aliens in Africa? Extraterrestrials visit Sudan and Sierra Leone in Movie ‘Arrival’

“Arrival” opens in U.S. theaters Friday.

ARRIVAL

Sudan and Sierra Leone are the unlikeliest places one would expect to see an alien invasion, but both countries are part of the 12 locations aliens visit in Denis Villeneuve’s latest offering “Arrival.”

“One thing that was very important to us was that we didn’t want to see a spaceship next to the Eiffel Tower. Plus, when do you get to mention Sierra Leone in a science fiction film?” says the film’s co-producer Aaron Ryder. “Africa is a giant landmass, so of course they would land there. It shouldn’t just be over New York city.”

ARRIVAL

A film that’s bound to spark lofty debates about communication, miscommunication and misinterpretation, the build-up of “Arrival” is exceptionally well written. Adapted from Ted Chiang’s short piece ‘Story of Your Life,” this high-minded flick follows Louise Banks (Amy Adams), a linguist expert who is brought in to communicate with alien intelligence who have arrived in Montana. There’s a spaceship hovering over North America, but there are also several others in multiple locations around the world that include Sudan, Russia, Sierra Leone and China. Every world leader has their own experts trying to communicate with the alien intelligence, all with different results. As mankind teeters on the verge of global war, Banks and the team that includes physicist (Jeremy Renner) and Military Intelligence Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) race against time for answers.

“The 12 locations have no real connection. Something Denis, the director, was very passionate about was making sure there is one element about the aliens we just could not answer. We knew they could not be overtly political or symmetrical, from a geographical standpoint. We knew they had to look as strange and alien to us as possible,” adds screenwriter Eric Heisserer.

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The first forty minutes of this drama are tense for the story unfolds very quickly. 12 gray and textured spaceships have shown up at various locations around earth suspending themselves in the air with their tips facing downward, but not quite touching the ground. Who are they, what do they want? Do they mean us harm? Those are the tough questions the world is asking and by day three, the U.S. military, led by Colonel Weber (Whitaker) brings in several language experts to help find out these answers. Heptapods, as they’re eventually called, have a written language, which Banks quickly deciphers, but why they have arrived on earth and in these different locations becomes the crucial question.

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The cinematography, which is done by “Selma’s” Bradford Young and the editing is first rate. Director Denis Villeneuve (“Sicario”) allows plenty of time for character development and there are some wonderful scenes in the film that shows the media and cultural circus surrounding the discovery of alien intelligence and how differently each world leader deals with the discovery. The image of these hovering crafts are quite astounding and the initial build up, especially the first contact with the creatures is equally gripping. Sadly, the film loses steam midway as it becomes more focused in stirring up awe than whipping up action and the sense of mystery about the aliens and the interaction becomes frustrating to watch.  “Arrival” simply circles around the idea that the world could be a better place if we had the ability to work together and it also touches on regret, death and starting over, which are all relatable philosophies.

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“It’s a movie that at its heart is really thoughtful,” co-producer David Linde adds.  “We live in a moment in time where people are really struggling to communicate, whether it’s the election we are experiencing or Brexit or the refugee situation. All serious issues we are experiencing right now and at the core, if we could communicate better about them, I think they would feel less scary. You have to find common ground and in this case if you are going to save the world, you better communicate with each other.”

Arrival film producers Dan Levine and Aaron Ryder

“Arrival” opens in U.S. theaters Friday

(pictured: Amy Adams,Forest Whitaker,  co-producers Dan Levine & Aaron Ryder)

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