Will there be a failed attack against the aliens by the military, discovery of a weakness, big speech by the president and a rousing victory? A vulnerable alien pursued by scientists, forging a bond with a child? A journey through earthbound red tape and spacebound wormholes, only to discover that the filmmakers cheaped out and made the alien look like Jodie Foster's father?
"Arrival" works as mainstream entertainment, but includes hallmarks of the "2001: A Space Odyssey"/"Silent Running" era of artist-driven science fiction.
The film is tightly calibrated, but leaves things open to interpretation, for discussion on the ride home from the theater and beyond.
In the middle stages, as stakes raise, the actors appear to have abandoned their wardrobe options entirely, and possibly started skipping showers between days on the set.
(Villenueve appears to have a life-threatening allergy to banter in his films.) Icelandic composer Johann Johannnsson's offers a spare and bleak musical score that sounds at time like someone playing a violin and oboe while being waterboarded.