Twelve alien spaceships descend on Earth, hovering mysteriously in the sky.

Where do they come from? What do they want? While most of the world freaks out and prepares to go all Independence Day on the visitors, the U.S. recruits a linguistics professor, played by Amy Adams, to try to communicate with them.

The creatures’ language is as strange and beautiful as they are (“ethereal octopi” doesn’t do justice to the movie’s creativity). Deliberately paced but highly rewarding, Arrival ups its IQ with Jeremy Renner as a soulful physicist, gorgeous production design (those minimalist spaceships might inspire Darth Vader to declutter) and a poignant twist that brings the drama back to the human level.

Based on Ted Chiang’s novella The Story of Your Life, the film is directed by Denis Villeneuve, whose last movie — the 2015 drama Sicario starring Emily Blunt and Benicio Del Toro — earned three Oscar nominations.

Arrival hits theaters Nov. 11.