Arrival (2016) | Transcript

A linguist works with the military to communicate with alien lifeforms after twelve mysterious spacecraft appear around the world.
Arrival by Denis Villeneuve

Arrival is a 2016 science fiction film directed by Denis Villeneuve, based on the novella “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang. The film combines elements of science fiction and linguistics to deliver a thought-provoking and visually stunning narrative.

Title: Arrival
Genre: Science Fiction, Drama
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Release Year: 2016


Arrival is a captivating and intellectually stimulating exploration of communication, time, and the complexities of human understanding in the face of extraterrestrial contact.

The story begins with the sudden appearance of twelve mysterious alien spacecraft, known as “shells,” at different locations around the world. As humanity grapples with the shock and uncertainty of this arrival, linguist Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is enlisted by the U.S. military to make contact with the extraterrestrial beings inside one of the shells, stationed in Montana.

As Louise, along with theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), enters the shell, they encounter the enigmatic and squid-like beings known as Heptapods. These aliens communicate using intricate circular symbols, resembling complex works of art. Louise and Ian embark on the challenging task of deciphering the Heptapods’ language, attempting to understand their purpose on Earth.

Simultaneously, the world teeters on the brink of chaos as governments and their military forces struggle to comprehend the aliens’ intentions. Tensions rise, and the threat of global conflict looms. Louise’s mission takes on a sense of urgency as she seeks to decode the Heptapods’ language to uncover the answer to a crucial question: “What is your purpose on Earth?”

As Louise delves deeper into the Heptapod language, she makes a profound discovery. The Heptapods’ nonlinear perception of time is embedded within their written language. To them, past, present, and future are experienced simultaneously, a concept that challenges Louise’s understanding of time and her own life experiences.

Through a series of non-linear flashbacks and moments of revelation, the audience gains insight into Louise’s personal life, her relationships, and a deeply emotional revelation that forms the heart of the narrative.

The film ultimately explores themes of linguistic relativity, the nature of time, and the power of communication in understanding the alien visitors and, more importantly, in understanding one another. Arrival is a visually stunning and intellectually stimulating journey that challenges conventional science fiction tropes, delivering a message about the importance of language, empathy, and unity in the face of the unknown.

Arrival is a testament to the power of language and the capacity for human connection to transcend time and space, leaving viewers with a sense of wonder and contemplation long after the credits roll.

* * *

LOUISE: I used to think this was the beginning of your story.

Memory is a strange thing.

It doesn’t work like I thought it did.

We are so bound by time, by its order.

(SOFTLY) Okay.


Okay. Come back to me.

Come back to me.

Come back to me.

Stick ’em up!


LOUISE: Are you the sheriff in this here town?

These are my tickle guns, and I’m gonna getcha!


You want me to chase you? You better run!




LOUISE: I remember moments in the middle.

I love you.

I hate you!


LOUISE: And this was the end.



Come back to me.

You come back to me.


LOUISE: But now I’m not so sure I believe in beginnings and endings. There are days that define your story beyond your life. Like the day they arrived.


Good morning.

ALL: Morning.

Where is everyone?

Okay. Well, let’s get started.

Today we are talking about Portuguese and why it sounds so different from the other Romance languages.

The story of Portuguese begins in the kingdom of Galicia…


MAN: Sorry. LOUISE: …in the Middle Ages, where language was seen as an expression of art.



Any news you want to share?

Dr. Banks, can you turn the TV to a news channel?


REPORTER: …but police have already set up a blockade here around the area.

As you can see, we’ve got just about as close as we can, but unfortunately,

Montana right now is on complete lockdown.

WOMAN: The object apparently touched down 40 minutes ago, just north of I-94.

We’re waiting to hear if this is perhaps an experimental vessel or…

Hold on, it…

I’m learning that more objects like this have landed in as many as eight other locations around the world.

Yes, can we?

This is from a site in Hokkaido.

MAN 2: This is worldwide. It is happening right now.


LOUISE: Okay. Um…

I’m sorry. Class is dismissed.







MAN: You are an idiot! You drove right into me!


MAN 2: You just ruined my car!

WOMAN: For now, we’re simply asking for cooperation

while authorities assess the object.

WOMAN 2: So, you’re saying it’s not ours?

Do you even know if it’s from Earth?

WOMAN: We’re still collecting information.

We’re coordinating with other countries.

We’re not the only ones to

have one of these in our backyard.

WOMAN 2: If this is some sort of peaceful first contact,

why send 12?

Why not just one?

LOUISE: Yeah, I know. I saw that, too.


Uh-huh. I don’t know, Mom.

I’m watching the same news coverage you are.

Well, Mom, please don’t bother with that channel.

How many times do I have to tell you? Those people are idiots.

Yeah, well, do I sound nervous?

Okay. Exactly. So…

Um, me? Yeah, um, you know me.

I’m about the same.

Mom, I’m fine.

Okay, I’ll call you later. Bye.

REPORTER: And around eight hours after landing,

there are still no signs of what might be called

“first contact.”

Now, the objects measure at least 1,500 feet tall…

WOMAN: Two are reported to have penetrated Russian airspace.

One in Siberia, and the other off the coast of the Black…

WOMAN 2: …above the ocean.

So far, there are 12 unidentified objects

spread across the globe.

There is no obvious logic to their locations

and no evidence that the ships are even occu…

…entertain the idea that if it is a kind of vessel,

it may be unmanned.

Regardless, we have a protocol for scenarios like this.






WOMAN: After Tuesday’s extraordinary events,

the President this morning has declared a state of emergency,

with as many as 5,000 National Guard

being deployed to the state of Montana alone.

Borders are closed and flights have been grounded,

stranding millions of travelers.

Panic buying of gas, water and food

continues to escalate,

and federal authorities have temporarily lifted

all caps on overtime for law enforcement.

The ATF has put a temporary ban on new gun licenses, forcing many independent suppliers of hunting equipment and firearms to close their doors to the public.

Forty-eight hours later and no further development…

Two days…

…from the site of the 12 UFOs.

…and already, the public expects us to know the answers.

I’m Colonel G.T. Weber.

We never formally met, but two years ago, you did some Farsi translations for Army Intelligence.


You made quick work of those insurgent videos.

You made quick work of those insurgents.

You are on the top of everyone’s list when it comes to translations.

And you have another two years in your SSBI, so you still have top-secret clearance.

That’s why I’m in your office and not at Berkeley.


I have something I need you to translate for me.



MAN: Why are you here?

Can you… Can you understand us?


Where did you come from?


Now you heard it. What do you make of it?

Is that…


How many?

How many what?

Um, how many, um, speaking?


Assume they were not speaking at the same time.

Are you sure? Did they have mouths…

How would you approach translating this?

Do you hear any words? Phrases?

I don’t… I don’t know.

So what can you tell me?

I can tell you that it’s impossible to translate from an audio file.

I would need to be there, to interact with them.

You didn’t need that with the Farsi translations.

I didn’t need it because I already knew the language, but this… This is… Ah…

I know what you’re doing.

Tell me what I’m doing.

I’m not taking you to Montana.

It’s all I can do to keep it from turning into a tourist site for everybody who has a TS clearance.

I’m just telling you what it would take to do this job.

This is not a negotiation.

If I leave here, your chance is gone.


Good day.


You mentioned Berkeley.

Are you going to ask Danvers next?


Before you commit to him, ask him the Sanskrit word for war and its translation.


An agreement on sharing scientific discoveries looks closer tonight, as Russia and China join talks at the United Nations.

Meanwhile, financial markets across the world are in crisis as the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell over 2,000 points…



WEBER: Morning.

LOUISE: Colonel?

WEBER: Gavisti.

He says it means “an argument.”

What do you say it means?

A desire for more cows.

WEBER: Pack your bags.

LOUISE: All right. Give me 20 minutes?

WEBER: Takeoff in ten.

SOLDIER: Dr. Banks. Right this way, please.



PILOT: Contact and ready to approach…

Excuse me, Dr. Banks, let me make sure you’re properly secured.


You okay?


Sorry, I couldn’t hear what you were saying.

“Language is the foundation of civilization. It is the glue that holds a people together. It is the first weapon drawn in a conflict.”

Louise, this is Ian Donnelly. Louise Banks, Ian Donnelly.

That’s quite a greeting.

Yeah, well, you wrote it.


It’s the kind of thing you write as a preface.

Dazzle them with the basics.

Yeah, it’s great. Even if it’s wrong.

It’s wrong?

Well, the cornerstone of civilization isn’t language, it’s science.

WEBER: Ian is a theoretical physicist from Los Alamos.

You’ll be reporting to me, but you’ll be working with him when you’re in the shell.

That’s what they’re calling the UFO.

Priority one: what do they want and where are they from?

And beyond that, how did they get here?

Are they capable of faster-than-light travel?

I’ve prepared a list of questions to go over, starting with a series of “handshake” binary sequences…

How about we just talk to them before we start throwing math problems at them?

This is why you’re both here.

IAN: I’ll bring the coffee.

Coffee with some aliens.


WEBER: I want you to take these two to Dr. Kettler.

Yes, sir.

Follow the captain to medical.

It should take just a few minutes, and then we’ll get started.


We’ll take care of your bag. I’ll take your cell phones.

Cell phones!

Follow me.

Put these on. You’re gonna wear them at all times.

Sir, they’re here.

DR. KETTLER: Louise Banks? Ian Donnelly?

When was the last time either of you have eaten?

Last night.

IAN: Same.

DR. KETTLER: Last time you did something stressful?

IAN: Does now count?

Just saying…

Uh, who was being carted off in the medevac?

DR. KETTLER: Not everyone is able to process experiences like this.

I’m gonna get some blood from you and give you an immunization dose that covers a battery of bacterial threats.

Could you sign these, please? And roll up your sleeves.

Either of you claustrophobic?



Currently taking any medications? Allergies?



The booster is a kick to your system, so you may experience some side effects, nausea, dizziness, headaches, a ringing in your ears, like you have tinnitus.

MAN: They wouldn’t go, either way.



SOLDIER 1: You see what’s happening to him?

SOLDIER 2: How does this even work?

SCIENTIST: (ON MONITOR) The readings do not change, but I don’t know, it’s like we’re insects on a piece of paper, and they’re easing us out of the house.

At exactly 112 minutes and 19 seconds,

gravity starts to shift and slides us out of the room.

Have you found a scientific explanation for it?

Like, is it for them?

Uh, no. We think it’s for us.

Air doesn’t seem to circulate inside the chamber, so after about two hours, we run out of oxygen.

It doesn’t take 18 hours to pump fresh air into a room.

IAN: Atmosphere…

HALPERN: Excuse me?

If their atmosphere is different from Earth, it would certainly take hours to rebalance their O2 content and pressure for us every time they open their door.

So, they could suffocate us if they wanted.

WEBER: This is Agent Halpern with the CIA.

Let me get you two to your stations.

IAN: Yes, sir.

WEBER: Remember, we need answers as soon as possible.

What do they want? Where are they from?

Why are they here?

This is the priority.

Everyone, this is Dr. Ian Donnelly.

He’ll be running this team here.

Have they responded to anything?

Shapes, patterns, numbers, Fibonacci?

We can’t tell what they’re saying when they respond to “hello,” so…

Don’t get ahead of yourself.

What have you figured out?

We’re just getting started. Good morning!

This is Dr. Louise Banks. She’ll be heading your team.

It’s a pleasure meeting you.

WEBER: Dr. Banks is taking over the mission from Dr. Walker.


That’s a 15-minute warning.

You scuba-dive before?

What kind of radiation exposure are we walking into?

Nominal. These are just for safety.

So, is there any physical contact with the, um…

Am I the only one having trouble saying “aliens”?

There’s a wall. Like, a glass wall.

You can’t get to them.

So, what do they look like?

You’ll see soon enough. Hurry up.



WEBER: (ON TWO-WAY RADIO) The suits are clumsy at first, but you get used to them.


I’ll open a second vehicle.

We’ll be there in a few minutes.

Make sure you hold on to something.


ALPHA TEAM LEADER: Copy, Condor. We will observe, but not initiate. Over.

Watch your step.

CONDOR: We’ll keep Alpha channel open. Over.

Alpha, be advised. Humidity increased since yesterday.

WEBER: Every 18 hours, the door opens up at the bottom.

That’s where we go in.

CONDOR: Zero movement. Alpha detail, clear to proceed. Over.


Beginning our ascent now. Over.

Ten feet.

Five feet.

Two, one…

CONDOR: Alpha clear to enter antechamber.


ALPHA TEAM LEADER: Moving into position.


Thirty feet from target.

CONDOR: Suit telemetry now full strength, despite unknown interference.

Three, two, one.



Oxygen level: 20.3%.

No known contaminates. Over.

Radio signals are decreasing.

90%, 85%…


Yeah, that just happened.



WEBER: All right, let’s move!

Time is wasting.

You ready? You ready?

Let’s do it!

Condor, I’m proceeding first with Captain Marks, over.


Gravity nominal in the antechamber. Over!

MARKS: It’s all good, sir.

You can proceed.

Stand by! Okay, bring it up.

Vitals are low.

Radio signal strength stable at 75%. Over.

WEBER: You okay?



Dr. Banks?

You can do this. Come on.

I don’t know. I… I think…


WEBER: Grab her.



CONDOR: Donnelly, are you all right?

WEBER: Dr. Donnelly, you good?

CONDOR: Dr. Donnelly, are you all right?

Please respond. Over.

IAN: Yeah.

Holy fuck!

We’re gonna go down there, and you’re gonna start your job.




Everybody, move out!

ALPHA TEAM LEADER: Alpha detail is in position.

MARKS: Team is in position.

We’re on the move.

ALPHA TEAM LEADER: Condor, Alpha’s now in the nave.

Setting up equipment and telemetry. Over.



So, what happens now?

They arrive.






Dr. Banks?


Dr. Banks?

You can start.

MAN: (ON RECORDING) …in airlock.

Do not stop until you have passed the airlock door.

Do not attempt to remove Hazmat suits without assistance from authorized personnel.

Repeat: Hazmat suits without assistance from authorized personnel.

Wait. Just a minute. Just a minute.


All right.

MAN: Step on out, please.

Now hold that.


Am I fired?

You’re better than the last guy.

(CHUCKLING) That doesn’t make me feel any better.

You both have till 02:00 hours to figure something out.

Okay. What happens then?

You go back in.



MAN: (ON TV) Violence continues to spread across the US today in the wake of the 12 landings.

The president has declared a mandatory dusk-to-dawn curfew after the crackdown by the National Guard failed to prevent a third night of looting across the country.

In North Dakota, 144 members of the Saint Lawrence Pentecostal Cult are feared dead after they set their compound ablaze.

Their website claims the arrival of the aliens set in motion a prophesy that…


Uh, we’re up in 15. You got any new Intel?

Yeah, we’ve been playing back some of their sounds.

Where does that get you?

Well, they play audio back at us, from an unseen source.

Audio of what?

Uh, it’s bits of conversation from the room.

Random clips of dialogue.

Really, we have nothing.


MAN: T-minus 14 minutes to shell access.

T-minus 14 minutes to shell access.

MAN: (ON PA) T-minus 9 minutes to shell access.

T-minus 9 minutes to shell access.

What’s that for?

A visual aid.

Look, I’m never gonna be able to speak their words, if they are talking, but they might have some sort of written language or basis for visual communication.

Okay. Let’s get started.

LOUISE: Human.




I’m human. What are you?









Oh my God!

WEBER: Are you getting this?

MARKS: Yes, sir! It’s uploading back to base camp.

IAN: Louise, that’s incredible.

LOUISE: Human.



Okay, slow down now.

Slow down.


I don’t wanna take away from your success in there, but Dr. Banks, is this really the right approach?

Trying to teach them how to speak and read?

That’s gotta take longer.

You’re wrong. It’s faster.

Everything you do in there, I have to explain to a room full of men whose first and last question is…

“How can this be used against us?”

So you’re gonna have to give me more than that.


What is that?

In 1770, Captain James Cook’s ship ran aground off the coast of Australia, and he led a party into the country, and they met the Aboriginal people. One of the sailors pointed at the animals that hop around and put their babies in their pouch, and he asked what they were, and the Aborigine said, “Kangaroo.”

And the point is?

LOUISE: It wasn’t till later that they learned that “kangaroo” means “I don’t understand.” So, I need this so that we don’t misinterpret things in there.

Otherwise, this is gonna take 10 times as long.

I can sell that for now.

But I need you to submit your vocabulary words before the next session.


And remember what happened to the Aborigines.

A more advanced race nearly wiped them out.


IAN: It’s a good story.


It’s not true.

But it proves my point.

MAN: (ON SCREEN) We think we were able to reproduce some prime number sequences back at them.

So that’s something.

IAN: Well, congratulations. You’re a parrot.

It’s a lot more than that, you cheeky bastard, don’t you see?

They can’t seem to follow our algebra, but complex behaviors, that clicks.

Well that doesn’t make any sense at all, does it?

Problem is, not everyone shares our policy of being open with the aliens.

Have you met General Shang?

The call sign for him is Big Domino.

Whatever Shang does, at least four other nations will follow.

Louise? We have to gain ground today.


You have a vocabulary list for me?

I do.

You’re gonna teach them your name and Ian’s?

Yes, so that we can learn their names if they have names, and then introduce pronouns later.

These are all grade-school words: eat, walk.

Help me understand.

Okay. Um…

Oh, no, no, no! Not the top!

Okay, this is where you wanna get to, right?

WEBER: That is the question.


So, first, we need to make sure that they understand what a question is.

Okay, the nature of a request for information along with a response.

Then, we need to clarify the difference between a specific “you” and a collective “you,” because we don’t wanna know why Joe Alien is here, we want to know why they all landed.

And purpose requires an understanding of intent.

We need to find out: do they make conscious choices?

Or is their motivation so instinctive that they don’t understand a “why” question at all?

And… And biggest of all, we need to have enough vocabulary with them that we understand their answer.


WEBER: I get it.

Stick to your list.

Just don’t add anything to it.


MAN: (ON RADIO) …are at 2.97.

Oxygen level: 21.4%. Over.

Condor, Alpha’s now in the nave.

Setting up equipment and telemetry. Over.

WEBER: Let’s get started.


Louise. Louise. I am Louise.

IAN: What is that?

Is that a new symbol? I can’t tell.

LOUISE: I don’t know. I think it’s the symbol for human again.

It just has a little curl on the end, maybe to indicate a question.

I don’t know.

I don’t know, Louise.

I think they’re getting confused.

WEBER: Dr. Banks, perhaps we should move on to the next word.




Dr. Banks!

LOUISE: It’s okay.

What’s going on?

Hey! What are you doing?

Yeah, I’m fine.

Are you insane?

They need to see me.

MARKS: She’s taking off her Hazmat suit.

Is it okay?

WEBER: You’re risking contamination.

LOUISE: They need to see me.

WEBER: Dr. Banks…

Dr. Banks.

MARKS: She’s walking towards the screen.

Should we abort?

MAN: Recourse noted. Stand by for further orders.

Go back to your stations.



Now that’s a proper introduction. Hey.


I am Louise.

Ian, do you want to introduce yourself?

IAN: Uh, yeah.



Screw it!


Everybody dies, right?

MARKS: Sir, Donnelly is taking off his Hazmat suit.

Permission to abort?

WEBER: Continue the session.




Who are you?

I think those are their names.

They have names.

IAN: So, what are we gonna call them?

LOUISE: I don’t know.

I was thinking Abbott and Costello.



Yeah, I like it.

I like it.

IAN: Wow!

MAN: (ON PA) Team 1, exit your vehicle and proceed directly ahead to the decontamination tent.

Leave your respirator on until you reach the equipment room.


LOUISE: I know. Shhh!

Team 2, exit your vehicles and continue to the decontamination tent.

Leave your respirators on and do not hesitate until you have reached the equipment room.

DR. KETTLER: How do you feel?


Well, I guess I don’t need to tell you you’re putting yourself at risk.

There’s no signs of radiation poisoning yet.

We’ll see how your blood tests look.

For now, I’m gonna give you another boost.


No radiation.

Nothing else we can detect either, but I’d give them a strong cocktail, regardless.

It’s the first time we’ve made significant progress.

All right. We’ll take the risk.

MARKS: Okay, honey…

WOMAN: (ON PHONE) What is going on there?


Just tell me!

You don’t need to worry, okay?

How can I not worry?

Just calm down.

Just calm down.

Becky asked me if the monsters are going to kill Daddy!

Honey, it’s not gonna happen.

Just stay safe.

You don’t need to worry.

Please! I’m so scared!

MAN: (ON MONITOR) All junior xenolinguistics and science personnel must observe general curfew unless expressly authorized for extended work hours by unit COs.

Curfew in effect as of 2200 hours.

Notice to all late workers, fire watchers and night staff.

Effective immediately, midnight rations will be served all night.


IAN: Here are some of the many things we don’t know about heptapods.

Greek. Hepta, “Seven.” Pod, “Foot.”

Seven feet. Heptapod.

Who are they?

Trying to answer this in any meaningful way is hampered by the fact that, outside being able to see them and hear them, the heptapods leave absolutely no footprint.

The chemical composition of their spaceship is unknown.

The shell emits no waste, no gas, no radiation.

Assuming that the shells communicate with each other, they do so without detection.

The air between the shells is untroubled by sonic emission or light wave.

Are they scientists? Or tourists?

If they’re scientists, they don’t seem to ask a lot of questions.

Why did they park where they did?

The world’s most decorated experts can’t crack that one.

The most plausible theory is that they chose places on Earth with the lowest incidence of lightning strikes.

But there are exceptions.

The next most plausible theory is that Sheena Easton had a hit song at each of these sites in 1980.

So, we just don’t know.

How do they communicate?

Here, Louise is putting us all to shame.

The first breakthrough was to discover that there’s no correlation between what a heptapod says and what a heptapod writes.

Unlike all written human languages, their writing is semasiographic.

It conveys meaning. It doesn’t represent sound.

Perhaps they view our form of writing as a wasted opportunity, passing up a second communications channel.

We have our friends in Pakistan to thank for their study of how heptapods write, because unlike speech, a logogram is free of time.

Like their ship or their bodies, their written language has no forward or backward direction.

Linguists call this non-linear orthography, which raises the question, “Is this how they think?”

Imagine you wanted to write a sentence using two hands, starting from either side.

You would have to know each word you wanted to use, as well as how much space they would occupy.

A heptapod can write a complex sentence in two seconds, effortlessly.

It’s taken us a month to make the simplest reply.

Next, expanding vocabulary.

Louise thinks it could easily take another month to be ready for that.


Oh, hey.

Weber’s looking for you.

Yeah, well, why do you think I’m hiding out here?


Come on up!


Nice out here, huh?

Yeah, it’s a nice view.

Away from the noise.

You know, I was just thinking about you.

You approach language like a mathematician.

You know that, right? (CHUCKLING)

I will take that as a compliment.

Yeah, well, it is.


As I watch you steer us around these communication traps that I didn’t even know existed, it’s like, “What?”

I guess that’s why I’m single.

Trust me, you can understand communication and still end up single.


I feel like everything that happens in there comes down to the two of us.

Yeah, that’s a good thing though, right?

You and I?


Have you seen the jokers that we’re working with?

Thank God I’ve got you!



WOMAN: Tonight, the first photograph of the aliens goes viral.

Biological contamination is a major risk factor at the Montana site.

So say environmental pressure groups.

800,000 march on Washington to protest the government’s handling of the crisis.

All this, and more special coverage.


RICHARD RILEY: First contact with whoever it is that is inside that thing, and who’s running the show?

The government.

That’s right, folks, the same government who ruined our healthcare and bankrupted our military.

Look at these people!

Most of them don’t even have guns!

We could be facing a full-scale invasion.

Our president’s willing to sit back and let them waltz in and take our country.

We are falling asleep at the wheel, people!

You know what I’m talking about. I know you do.

What if the smartest thing we could do right now would be to give them a show of force?

I’m talking about a shot across the bow.

What do you think?

Caller No. 1, you’re on the air.

What do you think?


HANNAH: What’s this word?

LOUISE: Planet.


LOUISE: That’s, like, um… The Earth is a planet.

HANNAH: Want to see my project for Miss Garriott’s class?

LOUISE: Yeah, little nose.

We had to make up our own TV show.

If we had one.

LOUISE: And who are those two people?

That’s you and Dad.

The show is called

“Mommy and Daddy talk to Animals.”


Well, it’s lovely.



You know it’s okay to be sad that your dad and I…

I know. I’m not.

‘Cause we both love you very much.

I know. It’s just a cartoon. It’s not real.

IAN: Louise?

You all right?

Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine.

I’m not sure it’s something I can… I can explain.

WEBER: When was your last checkup with Dr. Kettler?

I’m okay.

I’m gonna get some air.

I’m okay.

All right.

I’m fine. Yep.

IAN: How you feeling?


I need some sleep, but I’m fine.


You know, I was doing some reading, um, about this idea that if you immerse yourself into a foreign language, then you can actually rewire your brain.

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.


The theory that, uh…

It… It’s the theory that, uh, the language you speak determines how you think and…

IAN: Yeah. It affects how you see everything.

It was, uh…

I’m curious…

Are you dreaming in their language?


I may have had a few dreams, but I don’t…


I don’t think that that makes me unfit to do this job.




Did you sleep?

A little.

Do you know Mandarin?

MAN: It is shifting.

WEBER: The voice you’re about to hear belongs to a Chinese military chief…

General Shang.

Pull it up!

We got a satellite feed here of who he’s talking to, if you want to look.

Wait, go back.


He’s saying that each of the 12 is offering advanced technology.

Go back again. And play.


“Our science team is attempting to decode the sets.”

“Sets.” I don’t know what that means.

Something about advantage, suits, honor and, uh, flowers.

I don’t… I don’t know. That’s all.

I don’t know what it means either.

An hour ago, China mobilized forces.

And now, Russia’s following suit.

Shang’s about to start something.

Following suit. Suits.

Suits, honor, flowers…

Colonel, those are all tile sets in mah-jongg.

God, are they…

Are they using a game to converse with their heptapods?

Maybe. Why?

Well, let’s say that I taught them chess instead of English.

Every conversation would be a game.

Every idea expressed through opposition, victory, defeat.

You see the problem?


If all I ever gave you was a hammer…

Everything’s a nail.

We need to ask the big question.

Ready or not.


Yeah, I know, but between there and there.


Well, it’s time to go.



Heptapods’ purpose.

Heptapod purpose Earth. What is your purpose?


IAN: Do we only have Costello?

Okay. There you are.

WEBER: What does it say?

Offer weapon.

You saw what they wrote!

Using a word they don’t fully understand.

Could be a request.

A warning.

Enough! Louise?

We don’t know if they understand the difference between a weapon and a tool.

Our language, like our culture, is messy, and sometimes, one can be both.

IAN: And it’s quite possible that they’re asking us to offer them something, not the other way around.

It’s like the first part of a trade.

So, how do we clarify their intentions beyond those two words?

Well, I go back in.

Right away, we go back in and we clear this up.

It’s more complicated than that.

How is it more complicated than that?

Colonel, the Secretary of Defense is on the line for you.

We need to sit on this information till we know what it means, so we aren’t sharing it with our enemies.

We must consider the idea that our visitors are prodding us to fight among ourselves until only one faction prevails.

There’s no evidence of that.

Sure there is.

Just grab a history book.

The British with India, the Germans with Rwanda.

They even got a name for it in Hungary.


Yeah. We’re a world with no single leader.

It’s impossible to deal with just one of us.

And with the word “weapon” now…

Halpern. Yes, sir!




MAN: No confirmation yet. Standing by.

HALPERN: Anything? What did they say?

China and Russia are off the grid.

They aren’t speaking to anyone.

Whatever they learned in their last session has them spooked.

Yes, sir!

We have orders to do the same.

These are our allies!

You can’t shut us down!

Put us on radio silence.

Do it.

We received a message from the hept… Damn it!

We need to be talking to each other!

You want to talk to them? Find out what this means.

MAN: Base-camp talk is now offline.

All interpreters and international liaisons, stand down and report to unit coordinators.

LOUISE: We’ve never re-entered a session before.

IAN: Louise, trust me, okay? We’ve got time.

We’ve just gotta step on it, all right?

WOMAN: (ON TV) “Use weapon.”

This is the alien message said to have provoked the Chinese government to withdraw their scientists from the international mission today.

In a statement, General Shang said, “China no longer trusts the aliens who want to divide us. Humanity must be protected.”

China has asked for immediate talks at the UN.

MAN: (ON RADIO) Alpha-one-niner, this is Condor, over.

Alpha-one-niner, this is Condor, come in. Over.

Captain Marks, Condor not receiving transmission.

Squelch twice if you hear line.

Captain Marks, all escort units are ordered to cease all activity.

No, no, no. Dr. Banks, you can’t go in there.

LOUISE: I just need to ask one question.

MARKS: Dr. Banks! The session is finished.

You can’t… You can’t go back in. It’s dangerous.

IAN: Look, we just need five minutes. Don’t sweat it.

LASKY: Marks, let them go.

LOUISE: Hey, Abbott!

So, what are we calling this? Session 37?

IAN: Uh, no, 36, part 2.

WEBER: Why are they on their own?

MAN: We’ve been attempting to hail Captain Marks.

The escort units are not responding, sir.

WEBER: Why not? Send security.

“Offer weapon, question mark.”

Are you offering us something?

IAN: Technology, apparatus, method?

Yeah, see, this is a different word.

This… This segment, it’s a lot busier.

Give technology now.


What’s he doing?


MAN: (ON RADIO) Captain, on your ten.


LASKY: Security detail inbound, sir.

T-minus 4 minutes remaining. We need to see this through.

SOLDIER 2: Okay, this is it. Lock and load.

MARKS: We just need to hold them off until it’s done.

LASKY: Copy that. Warning shots and suppressive fire only.

MARKS: Load up and get to cover.

Stay frosty and we can avoid casualties.


Abbott wants me to write on the barrier.

Can you even do that?

I don’t know.

I can’t do it with both hands.




LOUISE: What is that?




DR. KETTLER: Hey! Hey, hey, hey. Take it easy.

You suffered a concussion. Just lay back.

How do you feel?

How is Ian?

Same as you. He’s okay.

Who, um… Who did this?

Ah, some soldiers.

They’ve been watching too much TV.


What is that?

Take it easy. Take it easy.


The site’s no longer secure. We’re standing by to evacuate.

Where’s Ian?

Weber came and got him maybe 10 minutes ago.

He wouldn’t leave until he knew you were okay.

Your whole tent is on the clock to figure out whatever it is you were given up there.

This is all of it?

The feed wasn’t interrupted by the explosion?

WEBER: Not as far as I can see.

You see something?

IAN: Oh, I don’t know yet.

I’m gonna need my team to get together with Louise’s team.

I need everybody working on this.

We cannot leave.

Glad to see you’re awake.

We need to go back in and explain this wasn’t our fault.

WEBER: We can’t go back inside.

We have to.

What happened in there was an attack.

We can hope for the best, but I have orders to prepare for retaliation.

We may have to evacuate.

No, that’s the wrong move.

As long as they stay, we have to stay.


Well, they’re not leaving.

Why does this feel worse?

MAN: (ON SCREEN) China is on the offensive.

They’re positioning the military to blow the alien vessel right out of the sky.

And if this happens,

we can’t sit around waiting for retaliation.

So, get prepared.

The Air Force and infantry are standing by.

Yes, sir.

Tonight, China becomes the first world power to declare war against the aliens.

Following the failure of diplomatic efforts

at the United Nations,

China has confirmed that its language experts have tonight delivered an ultimatum at the Shanghai site.

In a televised statement, General Shang, chairman of the People’s Liberation Army, said the aliens have 24 hours to leave Chinese territory or face destruction.

And he urged all other world leaders to unite with China and take a similar stance.

With a huge buildup of forces at their landing sites, Pakistan, Russia and Sudan are thought to be following China’s lead.

It can’t be random.

IAN: It’s going to take us years.

HANNAH: What’s this term here?



Hmm? Sweetie…

Uh, what’s this term for that thing,

like a… Like a technical term, where we make a deal, and we both get something out of it.

A compromise.


Like, it’s a competition.


But both sides end up happy.

Like a win-win.

More science-y than that.

If you want science, call your father.


IAN: Thank you.



It’s okay.


What time is it?

IAN: It’s time you opened that bottle you’ve been hiding.

You cracked something, didn’t you?

Yeah. Come here.

Take a look at this section.

It seems to be talking about time.

Their symbol for time is everywhere.

So what is this?

A formula for faster-than-light travel?

Who can tell?

There are too many gaps.

Nothing’s complete.

Then it dawned on me.

Come here.

Right here.

Stop focusing on the ones. Look at the zeroes.

How much of this is data?

How much of it is negative space?

So, I measured it.

0.0833 recurring.

Perhaps you’d like that as a fraction.

One of twelve.

What they’re saying right here is that this is one of 12.

“We are part of a larger whole.”

Or we’re one of 12 contestants for the prize.

Why do I have to talk to him?

We’re all working together.

We need to talk to the other sites, help them with what they’ve gotten from the heptapods.

We’re blacked out.

China just threatened to destroy their shell.

We’re on our own.

But this says that all of the pieces fit together.

And I’m telling you that no one else cares.

Two hours ago, we pulled this audio off a secure channel in Russia.

Someone on the science team there was broadcasting wide.


In their final session, the aliens said, “There is no time. Many become one.”

I fear we have all been given weapons.

If anyone is receiving this, please…



Well, I mean, there are a lot of ways you can interpret what he said.

I don’t need an interpreter to know what this means.

Russia just executed one of their own experts to keep their secret.

“Many become one” could just be their way of saying some assembly required.”

Why hand it out to us in pieces?

Why not just give it all over?

What better way to force us to work together for once?

Even if I did believe you, how in the world are you gonna get anybody else to play along and give up their data?

We offer ours in return.


A trade?

IAN: It’s a non-zero-sum game.

Non-zero-sum game.

That’s it. Yeah.


HALPERN: Nine of the landing sites have gone total comms blackout.

Only way to reach them is to physically drive there and yell at the border guards, which we’re doing, but it won’t be fast enough.

There must be a way to get the message to them.

HALPERN: To our allies, maybe, but it’s too little too late.

What we need is to get all the other nations online before one starts global war.

And there’s no way for us to reach them.

IAN: Okay, hold on a second. There is!

It’s right above us.

WEBER: That’s problematic for us right now.

The Pentagon’s convinced our shell will retaliate.

My guess is they’ll order us to evacuate within the hour.

IAN: Look, they’re not our enemy.

They’ve made no act of aggression towards us.

HALPERN: Maybe this is their way of being aggressive.

WEBER: That’s not the question.

HALPERN: What is the question?

WEBER: How do we get you back in that room when it’s half a mile straight up?

HALPERN: I think our work here is done.

It’s in the hands of our superiors now.


HALPERN: What the hell is she doing?


Oh, my God! Oh, God, no!








Where’s Abbott?



I’m sorry.

We’re sorry.

I need you to… I need you to send a message to the other sites.

I don’t… I don’t understand.

What is your purpose here?

How can you know the future?


I don’t…

I don’t understand. Who is this child?

HANNAH: The show is called “Mommy and Daddy talk to Animals.”

Wait! No! Wait!


WEBER: Dr. Banks! IAN: Louise!

WEBER: Are you all right?

You all right?

LOUISE: Yeah. I’m all right.

IAN: What happened?

LOUISE: I’m trying to figure it out. This is too big.

Doesn’t matter now. We have orders to evacuate.


Russia and Sudan are following China.

I don’t understand.

HANNAH: Help me, Mama.

IAN: Louise? Whoa!



Sorry, honey.

What day is it? Do you know, baby?


Are you gonna leave me like Daddy did?

Oh, Hannah, honey, your daddy didn’t leave you.

You’re gonna see him this weekend.

He doesn’t look at me the same way anymore.


It’s my fault.

I told him something that he wasn’t ready to hear.



Believe it or not, I know something that’s going to happen.

I can’t explain how I know. I just do.

And when I told your daddy, he got really mad.

And he said I made the wrong choice.

What? What’s going to happen?

It has to do with a really rare disease.

And it’s unstoppable.

Kind of like you are, with your swimming and your poetry and all the other amazing things that you share with the world.

I’m unstoppable?



IAN: I got you.


Louise? Louise?

I just realized why my husband left me.

My husband left me.

You were married?

Come on! Let’s get out of here.




Why’s my name Hannah?


MAN: Get those people back, please.

LOUISE: Well, your name is very special, because it is a palindrome.

It reads the same forward and backward.

HALPERN: All right, guys, give me a hand here.

MAN: Yes, sir.

That goes in the bag.

MAN: Ready to go!

WOMAN: (ON PA) Evacuation underway.

IAN: Hey…

We’re done here! We’re taking this with us.

I can read it.

I know what it is.


It’s not a weapon. It’s a gift.

The weapon is their language.

They gave it to us. Do you know what that means?

So we can learn Heptapod. If we survive.

If you learn it, when you really learn it, you begin to perceive time the way that they do, so you can see what’s to come.

But time, it isn’t the same for them.

It’s non-linear.

Look, we did our best, but it wasn’t enough.

The captain will load you up.

You’re lifting off in 5 minutes.

Ian, Louise, it was an honor to work with you.

Good luck.

Hey, Colonel…

I’m gonna find out where we’re going.

(WHISPERING) Wake up, Mommy!

Dr. Banks…

A pleasure.

General Shang, the pleasure is mine, really.

Your president said he was honored to host me at the celebration…


…but I confess, the only reason why I’m here is to meet you in person.

Me? Well, I’m flattered. Thank you.

18 months ago, you did something remarkable, something not even my superior has done.

And what’s that?

You changed my mind.

You’re the reason for this unification, all because you reached out to me at my private number.

Your private number?

General, I… I don’t know your private number.

Now you know.

I do not claim to know how your mind works, but I believe it was important for you to see that.

I called you, didn’t I?

Yes, you did.

(SIGHING) Louise!


HALPERN: All right, let’s shut down the system.

Sir? There’s a sat line here dialing China.

Here? What do you mean “here”?

Come on, come on!

Whose phone is it?

It’s your phone, sir.

Search base camp now.

Find out who’s using that phone.

And hold on to those coordinates.

Yes, sir.

LOUISE: Come on… What do I say?

What do I say?

Come on.

I will never forget what you said.


You told me my wife’s dying words.




SOLDIER: We found the source of the phone call.

It’s in the clean room. We’re waiting for instructions.


What are you doing?

What are you doing?

Changing someone’s mind.

Can you buy me 20 seconds?

We don’t have time for this.

No, trust me. Buy me 20 seconds.

Do you trust me?

Okay. Yeah.


Dr. Banks, drop the phone now or we shoot!

Drop it!

I’m sorry!


HALPERN: You are committing an act of treason!


Drop it!

It’s done. I’m done.


…blackout from all 12 landing sites continues this evening.

Hold on, we are just hearing…

I’m being told we’re going to cut this report to tell you breaking news…

…China has called an emergency press conference…

General Shang, commander in chief of the People’s Liberation Army, has announced in an emergency press conference that China is standing down.

…all intelligence they’ve received will be shared immediately with the other landing sites.

Scientists from around the world are sifting through information received from the UK, Japan, Sierra Leone and Venezuela.

…the information they have acquired from both of their landing sites…

Also confirming it to be one of the 12 pieces of this puzzle that is being slowly put together.

LOUISE: So, Hannah,

this is where your story begins.

The day they departed.

You all right?

Despite knowing the journey and where it leads, I embrace it.

And I welcome every moment of it.

Ooh! Ah! Ooh!




LOUISE: Now backward. H…



IAN: You ready, baby?



Don’t worry. See you.


You okay?


Are you ready?


Oh, guess what? Star stuff!


IAN: Yeah?

LOUISE: If you could see your whole life from start to finish, would you change things?

IAN: Maybe I’d say what I feel more often.

I… I don’t know.

You know, I’ve had my head tilted up to the stars for as long as I can remember.

You know what surprised me the most?

It wasn’t meeting them.

It was meeting you.

I forgot how good it felt to be held by you.

IAN: You wanna make a baby?

LOUISE: Yes. Yeah.


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