Adams and Renner are well-matched; they're both fun to watch even in this slow, almost ponderous, story. The concept of what it takes to teach someone (or something) to communicate for the first time is something that may change the way you look at language. The story as a whole seems simple enough at first, but just when you think you know what's going on, think again. There are subtle visual clues hidden throughout but they only add to the complexity of it all. There are layers and layers to this clever film that offers an alternative to the typical shoot-'em-up humans vs. aliens action story.
Arrival boasts a fascinating story but it doesn't have much of an emotional impact. For all the importance of establishing communication with the aliens before they arbitrarily decide to destroy the earth—or another country does something stupid and causes interplanetary war—it just doesn't feel that urgent. With Louise's everyday life oozing in and out via flashbacks and memories, it's hard to stay focused. There's a reason for that, but to say more might be a spoiler.