A linguist and a theoretical physicist are the stars of the latest movie from the director of Sicario and the upcoming Blade Runner 2. The movie is Story Of Your Life, based on the short story by Ted Chiang, and this Amy Adams/Jeremy Renner movie looks awesome. Paramount Pictures screened an extended look at the film as part of CinemaCon, a trade show in which movie studios show their upcoming films to theatre owners. Paramount showcased Ninja Turtles 2, Ben Hur, Jack Reacher 2 and plenty of other upcoming releases (not including Star Trek Beyond). But the highlight was Story Of Your Life, which has no release date yet but is expected to open this fall.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve, Story Of Your Life tells a very familiar story. Aliens land on Earth at various places, and we're scared. When the military attempts first contact, the aliens talk back, but we can't understand them. So they go to Dr Louise Banks (Adams), who is one of the leading experts on language.
The trailer Paramount screened had a very grounded tone. The colour palette was greenish grey. It starts with Adams' voice over as she's heading to work. "There are days that define the story behind your life," says the voice. "Like the day they arrived." And then a pair of jets fly overhead. Inside her classroom, her students are all distracted by breaking news on their phones. We hear on the news that it's been eight hours since these ships have landed and, so far, first contact has not happened.
Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) comes to meet Dr Banks. He says everyone who knows about language told him to go to her. He places a recorder on her desk. On it a human voice asks, "Why are you here? Where did you come from? Can you understand us?" And after each question, an unintelligible groaning. It's unsettling, but it's definitely language. "Language is the foundation of civilisation," Banks says.
On a helicopter Dr Banks meets Ian Donnelly, a theoretical physicist, who will be working with her to try and figure out the alien language. Outside the helicopter we get our first glance of an alien ship. It's shaped like a stretched out egg, floating above the ground and towering into the sky. It's convex on one side, and concave on the other, so if you turned it on its side, it would also looks like a futuristic coffee table. Military personnel are stationed all around the site.
These ships are all over the world — around 50 places to be exact — and Banks and Donnelly board one. They enter from the bottom, in full orange hazmat suits. The inside is a rough black substance, and everything is totally uniform. One of the walls, though, is missing, and it's just a white light.
As they approach someone asks, "What happens now?" Banks replies, "They arrive." And then we see the outline of the creatures. They're almost like floating black octopuses. One of the alien appendages whips at the glass, startling the scientists.
The trailer then kicks into a montage. "Our first contact is our last chance," says the tag line. Banks explains that the aliens don't understand if our language is peaceful or a trap. We see her work with almost inkblot circle shapes. Donnelly asks her if she's dreaming in their language. Banks explains that "as long as they stay, we have to say" as if the military leaving would be seen as an aggressive manoeuvre. "How do we clarify their intentions?" someone asks. "I go back in," she says.
Before we watched the trailer, Jeremy Renner explained that this is totally Adams' movie, and that she's a truly powerful character in it. This showed in the trailer. As someone who has never read the short story, I don't want to now. I can't wait to see how this all plays out on screen.
Top: Jeremy Renner and Amy Adams present Story of Your Life at CinemaCon 2016. Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures