Annihilation is a science fiction horror film written and directed by Alex Garland, based on the novel of the same name by Jeff VanderMeer. The film stars Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny, and Oscar Isaac.
The Story/The Direction:
For years, the government has hidden the existence of “The Shimmer” from the general population. However, they have been sending in expeditions to explore the mysterious entity but to no avail, as no one ever returned. That is until Kane (Issac) returns after being in the Shimmer for twelve months. As the lone survivor, he surprises everyone including his wife, Lena (Portman). He ends up being very sick but no one knows why. To understand her scientific curiosity, Lena volunteers to join the first all-woman team to venture into the Shimmer. The team is made up of Anya (Rodriguez), Josie (Thompson), Cass (Novotny), and is led by Dr. Ventress (Leigh).
Garland is known for his writing on 28 Days Later, Dredd, and Ex Machina, the latter of which he also directed. With this film, he is able to take a typical sci-fi thriller plot of the unknown and dig deeper into human nature. He takes inspiration from Alien, The Thing, and 2001: A Space Odyssey to delve into this strange, vivid, unknown yet intriguing world. He able to craft something that is provocative and rich. This world he or rather the Shimmer has created is a spectacle as this world has mutated species (not just animal ones) that look odd yet beautiful at times. This film looks at biology, evolution, and how cells are the center of our world and how small changes made to them can make a difference. This very expressive analogy is supported by some dazzling CGI, a fantastic score, and Garland provides excellent direction. Each moment of the film is amazing to experience and see on the big screen. Garland makes this world look absolutely gorgeous but nightmarish at the same time. This film is about the physical journey that these women go through and like them, audience members are traveling into the unknown.
Portman as Lena provides one of the best performances of her career in this character that does not fall into the typical sci-fi protagonist tropes. Lena is a woman who is mostly driven by curiosity to discover what The Shimmer is and how it changed her husband. However, the script and Garland’s direction allow for there to be more than meets the eye. This film is also able to stay fresh with its characters. In most science fiction thrillers, the team that the audience follows is either a mixed crew with more men than women or a crew that is all men. Furthermore, none of the women are there to be a joke, they are intelligent and strong women who do what their male counterparts could not. Apart from Portman Leigh, Thompson, Rodriguez, and Novotny are able to be most intriguing characters. Each of this women has a story and reasons for entering the Shimmer.
While engaging and performed well by the respective actors, the women aside from Lena were not given a lot of opportunities to get to know them. Though their backstories had enough punch for audience members to care, they were mostly given in a single conversation. In addition, while a minor quibble, there were also a few moments that did not pay off as well as they could have.
This film is not perfect but its flaws are overthrown by everything else happening in this movie. Garland has created another science fiction film that will have many viewers discussing its themes and its meaning days after leaving the theatre. It looks fantastic and its story and characters are as engaging as they come. The final product has the potential to be award winning on a directorial level as well as adapted screenplay and sound mixing. This amazing film should be experienced in theatres however due to a dispute, this film will only be released in theatres in the United States and China. If one does not live in those countries, the film will be available on Netflix and should be watched on the biggest screen with the highest resolution and the best sound possible. It is worth watching in any way possible then buying on Blu-ray or VOD to watch again and again.
Rating: 4.5/5.0 bowties
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