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'Arrival' of smart science fiction promises a taste of the alien unknown

Linguistics meets mysterious life forms, with a fantastic cast. The question asked: Will we even understand if life makes contact?


Mysterious aliens, an unknown language, an ominous egg-ship. I'm a sucker for smart sci-fi, and it's not always easy to find in films. Denis Villeneuve's "Arrival" is coming November 11, and the first full trailer just went live. Based on what's shown, it's now jumped to the top of my fall must-see list.

No, this isn't "The Arrival", a 1996 film with Charlie Sheen that was also about aliens. Forget that movie. (Or rather re-forget it; sorry I reminded you.)

The premise to "Arrival" looks familiar: a strange series of alien ships have arrived. No one knows their purpose. Amy Adams is a linguist who's been tapped to help. The cast also includes Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker.

It looks like the movie will deal with the complications of making contact, territory reminiscent of "Close Encounters," "Contact" and "2001." But the pacing and tone of this trailer, and the way the aliens are presented, already has me excited. It's cerebral, and threatening. And it suggests complications that are only hinted at.

Based on the short story "Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang -- part of a collection called "Stories of Your Life and Others" you absolutely must read -- "Arrival" looks like a puzzle and a suspense story. It feels like shades of Christopher Nolan, Neill Blomkamp and Alex Garland's "Ex Machina." Villeneuve's previous films included "Sicario" and the totally terrifying "Enemy." He's also directing the upcoming "Blade Runner" sequel, which based on this trailer is very good news indeed.