When is an alien invasion movie not an alien invasion movie? When that movie is Arrival. Sure it features aliens arriving on Earth, their plans and schemes a mystery. Are they a threat? What are their plans for humanity? But the movie is primarily about attempts to communicate with the aliens and understand their bizarre language, attempts that lead to some surprising results. I watched the first 15 minutes or so the other night, and was instantly entranced. Denis Villeneuve’s directing is masterful and assured, elements necessary for a movie that’s essentially about translating a (very) foreign language. The scene where our main characters first see the massive alien vessel in person, as they fly over a massive crowd, then an abandoned road, and then the fog-enshrouded plain where the vessel stands — all the while accompanied by Jóhann Jóhannsson’s (RIP) otherworldly score — is one of my favorites. I watched this with my kids, and it was fun asking my 15-year-old what he thought of the film’s overarching themes concerning death, existence, and free will. These are heady topics, but Arrival handles them with grace and poignancy.