Arrival (2016) is definitely one of the best sci-fi movies I've ever watched. The photography, acting, and writing are superb. Every little detail was taken care of.

BUT, there's one scene (and the outcome of it) which really bothers me -- the "c4 scene". I'd be glad to receive a proper explanation because unfortunately it just makes no sense.

My main questions regarding the scene:

  1. Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) is in charge of the temporary "base" and the whole military operation. He is the one who reports to the higher ranked generals and he is in charge of everything that goes on there. How come he didn't knew that explosive charges were planted on the ship? The explosion, which was set to a specific time by a timer, apparently surprised him. And, if he was actually the one in charge of this -- how come he didn't consult with the two scientists which actually work on daily basis with the aliens and are literally on a verge of a huge discovery?
  2. Who were the people who planted the charge? Who gave them this command? How come they let the scientist go into the ship, if there was an explosive charge there, set to explode in 10 minutes? All they said was something like - "no, you can't go there". This makes no sense.
  3. Did the alien intentionally saved the two scientists by pushing them away? The obviously understood that something's wrong, because they started knocking on the "glass". Why did they actually wait for the explosion, if they about the charge?
  4. How come no one made a big deal (or stop the explosion for instance) of the fact that Louise (Amy Adams) actually managed to draw, by hand, the aliens' symbols and made a huge progress (on the scientific and personal/psychological level) by doing that?
  5. When Louise (Amy Adams) woke up, after this event -- nobody seems to really take the event seriously and investigate who have committed this act. This absolutely makes no sense -- that's probably the dumbest possible thing to do in their situation. They don't know which technology those aliens possess and what would be the reaction; they are in a middle of a study, regarding the reason of the aliens' arrival and their goals. (the reaction could be a beginning of a war with an unexplored species of aliens and obviously, the reaction would end the ongoing super import research which goes on around the world). The bottom line: how come no one made a big deal of this awfully stupid, irrational and unreasonable act.
  6. Whoever those people were, if they decided to start a war with a superior alien species -- why did they plant such a small amount of explosives, which definitely couldn't do anything to the ship (except annoying the aliens) instead of properly preparing for this attack? (like the Chinese did, for example). All they did was one explosion and a couple of guys with M-16 rifles.. that's just ridiculous.

I'd be really glad if someone could clarify this for me.

  • 3
    Please ask one question at once, unless it is related to your another question. – A J Nov 12 '16 at 17:58
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    @abhishek there's basically a single question - I was seeking for an explanation for the scene. The "sub-questions" are just the points which are unclear to me (the points which I'd appreciate the "answerer" to refer) – golosovsky Nov 13 '16 at 8:51

Here's how I read it:

We see a scene of military personnel in their barracks watching a video of a conspiracy radio show host saying that "something needs to be done" about the aliens. (I have to believe this is a reference to the real-life conspiracy radio show "Coast to Coast AM".) Those soldiers decide on their own they are going to "do something about it." They decide to plant the explosives and to use machine guns to protect their position while they're doing it.

Louise and Ian coincidentally happen to go back to the ship just as this plan is unfolding. The soldiers don't really care if Louise and Ian die since they seem sympathetic to the aliens, so they let them to go ahead and get on the ship.

The aliens understood that there was a bomb and chose to save Louise and Ian. I believe that the bomb killed one of them (Costello, I think?), but I'm not positive.

By the time Louise wakes up, it seems as though the commanders have realized that Weber wasn't involved and they are searching for the perpetrators. They also seem to realize that neither Louise nor Ian were involved as despite the bomb, and despite the aliens shoving the humans out of the chamber, the camera kept rolling. Just because you don't see anyone looking for the perpetrators doesn't mean that nobody was. It just wasn't important to the plot, so we can assume someone else is on it.

As for why they used such a small amount of explosives - all we can guess is that it was what they could get onto the ship without being noticed, and they wanted to "do something" even if they couldn't be sure it would be effective.

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    Thank you for the detailed answer! I really forgot about the scene with the soldiers listening to the broadcast and looking at each other - I think that was the missing piece for me. – golosovsky Nov 13 '16 at 7:15
  • The two points which are still unclear are not so crucial, but still there - 1. If the aliens knew about the explosives, how come they didn't just leave? Also, it's really hard to believe that it's possible to kill them so easily - they obviously belong to a much more advanced civilization (both physically and mentally). That's why I wasn't sure what to think when Louise was told that one of the aliens is dying (maybe he's just ill for some other reason [maybe an early stage of the "problem" that their race is going to face in 3k years]) 2. Nobody seem to care that Louise drew the alien symbol – golosovsky Nov 13 '16 at 7:20
  • But it's hard to discuss the second point :) – golosovsky Nov 13 '16 at 7:20
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    It was Abbot who was "in death process" after the bomb. Just because they're technologically advanced doesn't mean they're invulnerable. Given how they perceive time, it should've been child's play to avoid the bomb (assuming it's possible to change the future), but perhaps they perceived that this event was a necessary step in convincing humanity to play the part they needed us to, and so allowed it to happen. Or perhaps, given their perception of time, they don't believe the future can be changed and therefore didn't try. Maybe Abbot resigned itself to death by primitive human explosives. – Steve-O Dec 14 '16 at 0:24
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    I watched the film just last night, but I seem to recall that several crates of C4 were used. Thats not an insignificant amount of explosive. Additionally, C4 isn't always just at hand to our service members. – gWaldo Dec 19 '16 at 20:52

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