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This is a story about an American hero. For decades, Hollywood has been
reproducing the formula that “One hero that saves the world”. The
amplitude of Marvel movies and franchised hero products feeds the
country’s hunger for individual heros. Individualism, at its core, is
what the nation always strives or claims to strive for. Thus, I admire
Hacksaw Ridge for it is able to tell a story about a true American hero
without completely following the conventional traps or cliches of the
heroic story. Though some might argue that this is still a Hollywood
movie, I think it has its own unique ways of retelling and rebranding
the story so that the audience would find it new and illuminating.

在日内瓦的一个小影院里看了arrival 首映.
I watched the film “arrival” in a small theatre in Philly tonight. After
watching it, I realized that this is not just a story about us
understanding the aliens, but also a story about us understanding each
other on the planet. I found it especially relevant at this moment,
after what happened during the U.S presidential election. After a second
thought, I do realize that film and stories take inspiration from real
life events. Thus after a deep dive into humanity, it can sometimes even
predict the future. This is a film about time, about whether time can
exists in a nonlinear manner. During November, when the whole nation are
filled with bittersweet emotions from the election, I found the movie
very touching. But as to myself, as an outsider to this country, I can
understand the difficulties of finding common ground. However, I also
realize the fundamental reasons for misunderstanding resides not on the
fact that people cannot communicate, but that they are unwilling to do

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As taught in my screenwriting class, a great film always outlines a
hero’s journey. They have something that they’re passionate about, and
one day, when it has been taken away by unforeseeable forces, the hero
embarks on the journey to reclaim his love. While on the road, he always
make unhealthy choices and thus we have the movie been made. After
reexamining this formula, I think I’m secretly laughing at my own
naivety, for Hacksaw Ridge almost matches all the key elements of the
hero’s journey. Thus, I think it is important to examine the hero of the
story, and what makes him different. The first is of course, he is real.
This kind of remind me of the movie “sully”. While Sully is an American
hero that saves the lives of 200 passengers, Desmond saves the lives of
75 fellow soldiers. Except for Desmond, the battlefield is much more
fierce and complicated. While Sully fights against weather, the
committee and his conscientious, Desmond fights against the enemy,
human’s physical limitation, other’s disbelief in his faith and his
belief in his faith.

For promotional purposes, Paramount made a shot about intercultural
communication. The whole video asks one question: “What would you do if
you have to discover what you have in common, with someone who speaks a
different language?” Throughout the film, the director and the writer
constantly ask the question: will language truly change how we think?
When I’m in my dream state, will I think using “their” (as the other’s)
language? When I am writing this article, I also gradually realizes my
alienation with my mother tongue and my inability of effortlessly write
in English. I’m so familiar with both language, yet I might also be so
far away from both. I think in both language, will I dream in both? I do
not know the answer. But I think, the most important thing is whether
two opposite sides can coexist, whether everything has to have an
beginning and an end, and whether there has to be the black and the
white. And whether the two coexists provide the best balance?

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It almost seems as if the whole world is against him and one man has to
fight against the world for his true belief. In fact, it is Desmond’s
faith that sets him as the outlier and as the unwelcome, despite his
willingness to contribute to the welfare of his country, let alone to
die for his country. Thus, despite the harsh treatment by his fellow
soldiers, he insists on doing what he believes and what he thinks is
right. And he survives in the unimaginary situations and become everyone
else’s savior. Ironically, he becomes the savior to those who has
bitterly belittled him in the first place. But when it comes to the
matter of life and death, difference in faith has to be set aside.

I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of sci-fi stories and has been
constantly holding reservations to the genre. I just simply thought
those stories are too far away from my life and cannot evoke my
sympathy. But Arrival is not the typical sci-fi story that I would have
expected and is a much more complicated story.

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 If I continue to write following the previous observations, I think my
review would fall into the trap of merely recounting the story without
analyzing the complexity of the characters. And I think the film did an
amazing job of explaining Desmond’s upbringing and how he end up being
the man that he is on the battlefield. Many people think his belief in
not holding the gun stems from fear, instead, it stems from the deep
love the man have for life. Growing up, he learnt two bitter lessons
about what rage can do to a person. One from his childhood pastime
activities with his brother. The other from the violent exchange between
him and his father. At the same time, the film also did a great job of
making his father human, so that we understand what he has been through
and would not blame him for what he has done to his son.

I’ve watched the trailer a long time ago. But after listening to the
lecture by one of the co-producers of the film and reading the scripts
for a screenwriting class, I’ve adjusted my expectations. But arrival
totally contradicted and surpassed my expectations. The scripts are
amazing, but it is so hard to translate the words of the scripts onto
the screen, and the director did an amazing job. This whole movie is
about the difficulty of translation and understanding each other, not
only our species, but also the other. And it takes courage, great
effort, sacrifice and lots of love to accomplish the mission of
communication and understanding.

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As audiences, we would be easily guide by our own prejudices and blame
Desmond for his stubbornness. And later on, only to realize how wrong
we’re in making simple assumptions about Desmond just as the rest of his
teammates. However, we’re all human and it is nature to label the other
as the “weird” outsider and ourselves as the mainstream. Only when we
need the help from the other would we try to communicate and offer
forgiveness to the other. And the director did an amazing job of
revealing this great irony – the man that no one likes ends up saving
everyone. It took us so long and it cost us so much only to realize how
wrong we were in the first place. (Here, I’m simply trying to rephrase
and repeating my lines. But I like a little wordplay to reemphasize what
I think is crucial.)

But the filmmaker accomplishes this mission, of translating the
impossible language onto the screen. My first reaction after watching
the film is that the pace is really slow and it did not follow the
stereotypical track of an action-driven sci-fi film. It is an artistic
film with a scientific fiction vibe. After careful reflection, I
appreciate that the director is sincerely telling the double-storyline,
one story about her life, the other story about “humanity”. It deserves
the IMDB rating of 8.5. I’m really grateful that I’ve watched so many
great films lately.

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