Arrival (2016) – An introductory sequence shows linguist Louise Banks’s daughter, Hannah, dying in early adolescence from an incurable illness.
Twelve extraterrestrial spacecraft appear at twelve locations across Earth. A U.S. Army officer, Colonel G.T. Weber, recruits Banks and physicist Ian Donnelly to find out why the aliens have come. Weber takes them to an army encampment in Montana near one of the craft. On board, Banks and Donnelly make contact with two seven-limbed aliens, whom they call “heptapods”; Donnelly nicknames them Abbott and Costello. Banks and Donnelly begin researching their written language of complicated circular symbols. As Banks studies the language, she starts to have visions of a child who seems to be her daughter.
When Banks is able to ask why the aliens have come, they answer “offer weapon”. However, China translates this as “use weapon”, prompting them to break off communications, and other nations follow. Banks argues that the symbol interpreted as “weapon” might mean “tool”, and that China’s translation likely results from the competitive nature of their interaction with the aliens.
Rogue soldiers plant a bomb in the Montana craft. Unaware, Banks and Donnelly re-enter the alien vessel, and the aliens give them an extremely complex message. Just before the bomb explodes, one of the aliens ejects Donnelly and Banks from the craft, knocking them unconscious. When they reawaken, the military is preparing to evacuate, and the craft has moved out of reach. Donnelly discovers that the symbol for time is present throughout the message, and that the writing occupies exactly one-twelfth of the space in which it is projected. Banks suggests that the full message is split among the twelve craft and that the aliens want all the nations to share what they learn.