[No spoilers here.]
Yesterday I went to see Arrival. I thought it was very good. In particular:
- Really interesting script
- Fine cinematography
- Excellent cast (Renner, I like; Adams and Whitaker are longtime faves of mine, and they’re very good here.)
- Truly outstanding sound design
But what I liked most about the movie is that it is unabashedly pro-intellectual. Without giving anything away, Adams and Renner play professors (a linguist and a physicist, respectively) whose job it is to understand the aliens who have come to visit Earth.
They’re not intellectualizing things for the sake of it, or theorizing to theorize. They’re faced with a huge, highly practical problem, and they lead teams of brainy people (supported by highly professional soldiers) trying to unravel that problem.
Why I think this is important
For a long time now — and especially recently — we’ve been subjected to a narrative that people who think (and who think for a living) somehow aren’t “real people.” That’s a false, divisive, and counterproductive notion.
Having worked with my hands, and coming from people who do, I have great respect for that work. It’s vital and honorable. Besides the need for physical toughness, there’s often a lot of creativity, resourcefulness, and mental toughness that goes into that work.
But brainwork is also vital and honorable. And, crucially, it’s real. Arrival underlines the importance of that.
We’re facing a lot of problems these days, from racism to climate change to terrorism. We need everybody’s talents to solve them. That doesn’t mean Ph.D.s should talk down to the rest of us, or that intellectuals should call all the shots. But we need creative brainpower and deep knowledge now more than ever.
All of this ought to be obvious. Arrival reminds us that it isn’t.