Director Denis Villeneuve gives us a deep-thinking drama in which humanity's inhumanity threatens Earth after 12 ovoid-shaped spaceships land the world over.

With his dreamy, trippy “Arrival,” director Denis Villeneuve uses sci-fi the way it’s meant to be used in melding the metaphysical and the metaphoric into a timely tapestry that echoes our turbulent times. It’s rich in ideas and ideals about a worldwide communications breakdown that’s left us suspicious and untrusting of aliens, be they from another country or another planet.

Villeneuve presents it through the scope of a funhouse mirror in which a wealth of heady thoughts and themes refract and reflect into a dizzying prism of existentialism. But it’s not so much a question of who we are, but what we are when life invades our gentile psyches to challenge us with the twin burdens of grief and sorrow. How do we balance that with hope? And, is it really better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all?

That’s just the root of the profundity on display in Villeneuve’s deep-thinking drama in which humanity’s inhumanity threatens Earth after 12 ovoid-shaped spaceships land the world over. Who are they? Where did they come from? And, most importantly, what do they want? That’s where Amy Adams’ brilliant linguist Louise Banks steps in on behest of Homeland Security, which whisks her away via helicopter to the wide-open spaces of Montana to attempt to translate the eerie sounds emanating from one of the towering vessels. Joining her is crack scientist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), who is as perplexed by these squid-like beings and their circular, Rorschach-like scribblings as she when they go eye-to-eye with the pair they endearingly call Abbott and Costello.

In essence, the fate of man is in their hands - and those of the negotiators dispersed to the other 11 locations across the globe. But not all of our world leaders are on the same page. Some want to attack the invading “Heptapods,” foregoing any assumption of innocence. One by one, the nations affected go rogue, refusing to approach the perceived threat thinking as one. But as visions of Brexit dance in your head, the script by Eric Heisserer (based on Ted Chiang’s “Story of Your Life”) starts playing tricks with your mind through seemingly unrelated flashbacks (or, are they flashforwards?) to ethereal visions of Louise with her daughter, who we watch age from infancy to adolescence - before tragedy intervenes.

Within these dreamy apparitions beats “Arrival’s” immense heart, although its purpose and trajectory don’t become clear until the film’s well-earned, highly emotional coda, when Villeneuve brings the film’s themes of love, grief, family and palindromes to a tear-inducing crescendo. Fully aiding the director’s vision is the gorgeous, otherworldly cinematography by Bradford Young, ably filling in for Villeneuve regular Roger Deakins. Young bathes the screen in an array of blacks and blue tints that enhance the supernatural aspects of a story that lives or dies on the ability of its two leads to effortlessly cause you to suspend disbelief.

Both are outstanding, but it’s Adams’ massively expressive face that Young’s camera cherishes most. Even though her Louise is a linguist, she’s a woman of few words. But her face speaks volumes, which again fits neatly into “Arrival’s” thought-provoking musings on communication, particularly the referenced Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which underscores how the structure of a language greatly influences how we interpret what can best be called “the Other.” And as the story unfolds, it’s hard not to draw parallels between the world’s view of the alien intruders and the current rash of Islamophobia.

“Arrival,” like 2014’s “Interstellar,” also enjoys playing with time, especially our perceptions of it. And if we could conquer it, what would our lives be? Would we want do-overs? Or, would we want to live it as exactly as fate deems? Pretty deep, man. And it’s the kind of thing you’d expect of sci-fi dabblings from Kubrick, Malick and Spielberg. But to have it blossom from the mind of Villeneuve, the master of dark, violent films like “Prisoners,” “Incendies” and “Sicario,” is shocking, yet pleasant in its surprise. He’s truly out of his element, and it shows at times during the film’s sluggish middle. But it’s his newfound fascination with the sci-fi genre that also lends a freshness to the material, although I could have done without Michael Stuhlbarg’s cliched trigger-happy intelligence wonk attempting to foil Louise’s efforts as furiously as the hazmat-suited feds in “E.T.”

But any and all flaws are erased by a twisty ending that will absolutely floor you with its beauty and profundity. In a few short, awe-inspiring minutes, “Arrival” latches on to the very essence of what it means to be alive, how every moment has meaning and every person has his or her place to fill for whatever while they’re granted on Earth, even if that serendipity is forever haunted by the creeping shadow of death.
ARRIVAL (PG-13 for brief strong language.) Cast includes Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker and Michael Stuhlbarg. Grade: A-