What if you could see the future? What if you knew what was coming in 5, 10, or 15 years? You knew the joy around the corner, but you also knew the pain that was waiting for you?

This is the gift Dr. Louise Banks was given. Unless of course you view it as a curse. To each there own I guess.

For the next 3 posts we will be using Movies as our context and seeing if we can discover truth on the Big Screen. Our first movie – Arrival.

To be honest, I’m not a SCi-Fi fan. I definitely don’t read sci-fi for fun. But this movie was drawing me in. I had heard many good things about it, and then a certain friend told me that I had no choice but to watch it. So…I did. It was pretty clear that it would make the cut for this series. There was so much going on in this script.

What is it about?

It starts with the main character, Louise, having what look to be flashbacks. The scene quickly changes to what the gist of this movie will be about, Aliens visiting planet earth. 12 different space ships with two Aliens in each of the ships have arrived.

Louise is a linguistics professor who is called on to learn and decipher the Alien’s language. She’s joined by a Physicist (Ian Donnelly). They are the only two people who really make any progress in understanding what these Aliens (Heptapods) were trying to communicate to the world. After much work and hours of looking at their written language, Louise and Ian have some major breakthroughs – they are beginning to understand each other.

While this is going on, Louise is having, what we think to be flashbacks, but what is becoming increasingly clear are actually visions of her future. These visions are so real, she is experiencing the future like it’s happening in the present. Her contact with the Heptapods have given her a gift to look into the future – more than that, to experience time like it’s all before her, no past or future.

The US army, who is organizing all this work and mission, are tempted to do what governments normally do, blow things up. It seems like violence is always the first response in any tense situation. This is the case here as well. However, with the help of Louise and Ian, the governments of the world avoid a war against these Aliens, who are in the end, peaceful.

Arrival is essentially a Sci-Fi movie about a linguistic professor who defies the government, while passionately and skilfully working to understand this Alien presence…always working on the basis that you can’t come to any full conclusions about your enemies and those who are different than you are, without fully seeing them for who they are and what they are actually trying to communicate.

When you come to think about it, this idea and method could work well in any area of conflict resolution.

What are the themes that really stood out to me? What parts of the story speak to truth?


Ian quotes Louise in their first conversation, “Language is the foundation of any civilization…it’s the glue that holds people together. It is the first weapon drawn in any conflict”

In their first crack at the problem, Ian throws his scientific approach into the ring. Louise responds with, “How about we talk to them before throwing math problems at them.

What drew me most to this story was Louise’s undeterred drive to ‘UNDERSTAND’
– how can one ever make a conclusive decision on someone else until they really understand who they are and what they’re attempting to say.
– Language is so key in conflict resolution

We are often tempted to understand something quickly without really understanding something fully.

A theme that has resonated with me, when it comes to understanding and working through our human differences, while at the same time trying to convey the good news, are found in these two words, GENTLENESS & RESPECT. (1 Peter 3:15) As people who follow Jesus, we have got to be the better person, the one who actually attempts to understand where our neighbour is coming from, who they are, why they may act in the way they do. Maybe that’s why this part of the story impacted me so much.

Also worth noting: The comparison of Genesis 11 & Acts 2. In Genesis 11, different languages confused and divided people, in Acts 2, with the Spirit’s empowerment, languages actually brought people together. The good news was to be shared with all people and all languages.

Response & Reaction to conflict or differences…

Why is it that so often our first response to conflict is violence.

“He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of your guys to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue.“ (Untouchables, Jimmy Malone & Elliot Ness)

This theme seems to to come around a lot doesn’t it? Why can’t peace be our first option?

As a follower of Jesus, I want to do my best to be a Peace Maker…a person of peace. The argument is always, what if this happens, and what about this scenario, but can’t we at least be people who think PEACE first, not SHOOT first?

(movie quote) “If all I ever gave you was a hammer??? Then everything is a nail.”

Louise, in one of the final scenes, goes into the Alien ship, to be in close proximity with the Aliens. Here’s the thing: We often try and fix problems and conflicts from the outside, shoot from far away, attack from the outside, instead of taking a step closer and fully understanding our differences before discerning what the next steps are.

Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the…PEACE MAKERS…
Ephesians 2:14-15 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace…

What if you could see the future?

Here’s the wildest theme of this movie. If you could see the future, if you could see the JOY and the PAIN, would you still walk into it knowing that Joy & Pain will go hand in hand?

  • Would you say NO to the potential joy, because you want to avoid the pain?
  • Would you say NO to love because you want to avoid the struggle.

Louise has to make a choice. She can continue to walk into her future, knowing full well what it will be, or she can walk another direction and avoid the hurt she sees on the horizon. If she does, she’ll also miss out on the Joy. The indication is that she embraces the future, JOY & PAIN.

But what would you do?

Here’s where the gospel story might connect the most. Who is one person who knew how things would turn out, knew the pain that came with his mission, knew the struggle that he’d face in the future, but still chose love and relationship and community?

God the Father & Jesus the Son.

God knew that Jesus would suffer…and he knew that humans would disappoint, but he chooses to experience it anyway.

Costello, one of the two aliens in the ship, who had the gift of foreknowledge and seeing the future was injured and eventually dies. Even though he knew his future, knowing the pain and struggle awaiting him on earth, he comes anyways, to help, to save – sounds a little (or a lot) like Jesus.

God makes his choice. He chooses me. He chooses you.
He comes, through Jesus, and speaks our language. 
He comes, through Jesus, to reconcile us to him (not push us further away).

If nothing else about this movie moves you, I hope these final words do.

Arrival is a fictional story, about aliens and humans, about conflict and peace, about language and understanding, about love and pain. How much can you take away from a story like this?

Next time you’re in a theatre or watching a movie on TV, look a little deeper, who knows what you’ll stumble on.

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On tap for next week – HIDDEN FIGURES