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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Talking to the Animals

Arrival (2016) on IMDb

Plot Overview

A contemplative (“Memory is a strange thing”) once-upon-a-time single mom Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) day­dreams of wearing a wedding ring and playing cow­girls (“These are my tickle guns”) with her 8-yr-old adorable daughter Hannah (Abigail Pniowsky)—whose name is a deliberate palin­drome, and for that matter a wedding ring is circular with no end. Hannah, destined to die of a rare and unstop­pable disease, has her life end soon enough (“And this was the end”) while Louise's life was defined by “the day ‘they’ arrived.”

Alien craft (“Why send twelve?”) hover suspended over twelve spots on Earth ("Strange Craft in Montana"). Army Col. G.T. Weber (Forest Whitaker) leads the Montana investigative team that includes two civilians: (for her TS clearance) zeno-linguist Dr. Banks and theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner). While other nations ("Russian Troops Mobilize") jump the gun on a new tech­nology arms race, ready to follow like dominoes hawkish Chinese General Shang (Tzi Ma), the U.S. coterie tries not to have a cow. America, how­ever—big surprise!—is internally divided. Diplomacy, anyone?


When Dr. Banks uncovers the aliens' nonlinear orthographic language, Donnelly modifies his reservations about her art, saying, “You approach language like a mathematician.” We are mercifully shown the decryption process visually rather than semantically, except for “the big question” that Dr. Banks diagrams: “What is your purpose on Earth?” She breaks it down for us demonstrating the ambiguities, one of which I shall relate: “Specific or collective your?” They aren't particularly interested in asking just one Joe Blow space­man “your” purpose, but of the collective.

Christians, say, are most familiar—or should be—with this point when they consider the replacement of The King James Version's (KJV) thee & thou with modern usage you. Thee and thou in the KJV are singular 2nd pn pron, while you and ye are plural. You replaces them all in modern trans­lations, and it's up to us to figure out what is meant.

Let's take a couple examples: Exodus 4:14-15, modern translation (NIV) “Then the Lord's anger burned against Moses and he said, ‘What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and his heart will be glad when he sees you. You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do.’” Does God mean teach you both or just teach you, Moses? There's a little bit of ambiguity with just the pronoun you. The (KJV reads, “And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and he said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee: and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart. And thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth: and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do.” Here God will ipso facto “teach [both of] you what ye [plural] shall do,” other­wise he would have said, “teach thee [singular-Moses] what thou [singular] shalt do.”

Another example is, Exodus 30:34-37 concerning Moses and the congregation and incense; I shall leave it to you my reader to explore the fine distinctions here that do not come across clearly in modern versions.

There's a real interesting case in St. Paul's letter to Philemon concerning the man's run­away, now converted slave Onesimus. Paul stopped short of commanding him what to do, trusting rather, (Philemon 1:6) “That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.” He'd figure it out himself. The pronoun ‘you’ that Paul used there in Philemon displaces the customary ‘thee’ in the 1611 KJV. English was going through a transitional stage at that time in which one's betters were addressed simply by ‘you’—except for the Quakers who didn't believe in classes so still spoke to any­ one of y­ou as ‘thee’ or ‘thou’. The Christian Philemon is filled with “every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus,” so Paul entrusts him worthy of respect to manage his own house­hold affairs. Paul was willing to trust the Lord to, (Heb. 13:21) “Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well­pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ.”

Paul's character of deferring to the believer filled with “every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus” shows up also in his advice to the Corinthians on matrimony. Paul the celibate eunuch wrote, (1Cor. 7:7) “For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.” He trusted each to find his proper gift “which is in you,” as they them­selves are “in Christ Jesus.” He explicitly defers to the widow abiding in the Lord, who (1Cor. 7:39) “if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord” in Whom she is abiding.

1 Corinthians 7In a timeline that keeps us off guard, “Arrival” brings up a personal matter of whether Louise can have a good marriage with a man who fathers the particular child she has (“Do you want to make a baby?”) This corresponds biblically to the question of whether St. Joseph should proceed to marry his gravid Mary—the angel said yes in a vision, because the child was holy—and Paul's answer (1Cor. 7:1) “concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me:” about mixed marriages. In the former case of the Christ child,(Matt. 1:18-20) “When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, … while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.” In the latter case Paul said, (1Cor 7:12-14) “If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.” Paul allows the faithless party to depart in peace, though, (1Cor. 7:15) “But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.” In the Bible the latter answer is seemingly paired with the former question, which is perhaps how it should bei.e. married up in a passage on marriage.

In the movie it's hard to tell whether Banks is remembering past or distant past, living in the present, or imagining the future. This is deliberate. The Bible also merges the tenses. Paul earlier in his first Corinthian epistle having written, (1Cor. 3:21-22) “For all things are yours; Whether … the world, or … things present, or things to come; all are your's.” That would expand the rule of accepting current mixed marriages, i.e “the world, things present,” to include mixed marriages to come, i.e “the world, things to come.”

According to my Criswell Study Bible, “Second Corinthians was written some six months later” than First Corinthians. In his second letter to the Corinthians Paul says he's, (2Cor. 4:2) “... not handling the word of God deceit­fully.” An example of deceit can be found when, (Gen. 34:13) “the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father deceitfully, and said, because he had defiled Dinah their sister.” They told them they were allowed to inter­marry but used it as a ruse to gain an advantage, because actually they weren't allowed to. Paul wasn't being deceitful, so after he tells the Corinthians a mixed marriage is permissible, he's not going to tell them six months later it isn't. Paul does, though, ask them the rhetorical question, (2Cor. 6:15) “what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” Webster defines “infidel: one who is not a Christian or who opposes Christianity.” The Corinthians have a ready example of such pairings, of believers taking part in marriages with unbelievers: the ones they asked Paul about earlier, now minus the couples where the unbelieving spouse either converted or departed, plus any new mixed marriages that occurred in the six month interim per Paul's allowance or where one Christian spouse had back­slid. In the Bible it is the observed tension in mixed marriages (altogether permitted if that's your bag and the unbeliever is willing) that helps inform the Christian regarding the incompati­bility of Christian and heathen worship forms (whose mixture is not permitted). This latter prohibition, derived in part from the observation of mixed marriages where the unbelieving partner won't come to church to worship, is expressed in, (2Cor. 6:14) “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: ...” Here we have the plural ye and unbelievers corresponding to corporate worship—clear in the Greek hetero-some­thing—where the two are not to be yoked together in it, although a singular believer is permitted to marry a singular unbeliever and make babies or whatever.

The typical modern Bible (NIV) says, “Do not [understood you] be yoked together with unbelievers.” That's ambiguous with respect to number; in such a form it could apply to individual as well as corporate arrangements, thus lending itself to abuse as a proof text. Considering that as a practical matter most people will choose the natural human state of matrimony, and most Christians will select (if they have the option) a Christian mate like them­selves, the ground is fertile to be judgmental against a Christian who for what­ever reasons decides to marry an unbeliever.

Production Values

This sci-fi film, “” (2016) was directed by Denis Villeneuve. Eric Hiesserer wrote its screen­play based on Ted Chiang's short story, “Story of Your Life”—the title will make sense towards the end of the movie. It stars Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker. Amy Adams out­did her­self, with her great big blue eyes and fresh face sans makeup—save in an awards scene. Forest Whitaker gave a strong supporting role. Chinese actor Tzi Ma had a great scene. All in all a well-rounded cast fleshed out the movie.

MPAA rated it PG–13 for brief strong language. It was filmed in Montréal, Québec, Canada. Cinema­tog­rapher Brad­ford Young really outdoes him­self here, and Jóhann Jóhannsson's pervasive musical score contributes to the brooding mood. While boasting some impressive CGI and sci-fi trappings, it's in essence a family drama. Villeneuve's style employs light and shadow to good effect, and some eerie alien sounds to keep one up at night. It's superbly paced with a suspenseful and engaging plot. Very creative, as well. You don't have to be a sci-fi fan to appreciate it.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

A female linguist by immersing herself in an outworldly language rewires her brain to understand the nonlinear orthographic language of the heptapods. It's called linguistic relativity or the severe warp hypothesis. Maybe she can save man­kind. Maybe she can't save her marriage. Maybe a Bible scholar can find some­thing comparable in the Good Book. It was an interesting drama with­out a lot of the usual fire­works. Well done, I'd say.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Suitability for Children: Suitable for children 13+ years with guidance. Special effects: Well done special effects. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall product rating: Four stars out of five.

Works Cited

Unless otherwise noted, scripture is taken from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software, print.

Bible quotes marked New International Version or (NIV) are from: Holy Bible, New International Version™, NIV™. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Print.

The Criswell Study Bible. Authorized King James Version. Nashville | Camden: Thomas Nelson Pub., 1979. Print.

Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary. Springfield, Mass.: MERRIAM-WEBSTER. 1984. Print.