When aliens land on earth in Denis Villeneuve’s thought-provoking new sci-fi movie, it is up to Amy Adams’s linguistics professor to communicate with unfamiliar beings.

And while the hawkish military people running the operation have the tanks ready and only want to know if there’s a fight brewing, Adams’ character Dr Louise Banks nicknames them Abbott and Costello and seeks to really understand them.

It’s reassuring to know that should extra-terrestrials land here in real life, the five-time Oscar nominee would have similarly conciliatory attitude – at least her means of communication was to show them a film.

Speaking to us on the red carpet at Arrival’s UK premiere at the BFI London Film Festival, Adams said: “All I can think is Hello Dolly, like in Up when he watches that over and over again.

“That’s not what I’m saying but that’s what’s going through my mind. I’m not sure, I would probably say something uplifting, something that shows our spirit of hope and not of conflict.

“I wouldn’t show them Independence Day, put it that way.”

Sicario director Villeneuve’s movie is unusual for a sci-fi about a human encounter with aliens. It is tense and beautiful and shuns explosions in place of explorations of language, time, fate, family immigration and nationhood.

Discussing what appealed to her about the project, Adams said: “The script is absolutely beautiful, and then Denis’ take on it. He really wanted to tell the story of a mother and that was really attractive.”

The movie is also relatively atypical in that it is a blockbuster driven by a female star - one that is intellectually superior to her male counterparts and not weak, running for her life or scantily clad.

Diversity is a recurring theme in this year’s London Film Festival and it is something that Adams takes seriously.

She said: “It is absolutely an issue, I think that is why it is so much at the forefront.

“I think the more we can hear voices from different races, from females, from males and bring those together to tell of the human experience - the human experience is not just one race and one sex – is very important.”

Arrival is showing as part of BFI London Film Festival, which runs until October 16. It is at cinemas nationwide from November 10.

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