STARRING: NATALIE PORTMAN; JENNIFER JASON LEIGH; TESSA THOMPSON; OSCAR ISAAC; GINA RODRIGUEZ
DIRECTED BY: ALEX GARLAND
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 4 STARS (Out of 4)
“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.”- Albert Einstein
That quote from Albert Einstein sums up Annihilation. The beauty of Alex Garland’s sci-fi film lies deep beneath its mysterious roots, covering every inch of the screen, and burrowing deep into the mind of the viewer. Rarely does a sci-fi film this good come along, drawing influence from classics such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Solaris, or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, while also fitting perfectly in place after Denis Villeneuve's recent futuristic works Arrival and Blade Runner 2049. Following the success of his spectacular first film Ex Machina, Garland proves he was just getting started, making a film that dares the audience to go along without asking questions. It's best to no very little going in, because Annihilation took my mind on a gorgeous, psychedelic adventure, filled with a passion for the obscure, creating a cinematic experience that I will never forget.
Based on the first book in a trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer and written for the screen by Garland, our lead character is Lena (Natalie Portman), a biologist whose husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) left for a secret military mission over a year ago and never returned. Until...one day he returns home, only he is not himself, looking as cold as a cadaver, a distant gaze behind his eyes, and bleeding from his mouth. Military intervenes and Lena wakes in a location called Area X, while Kane is now on life-support. Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh) interrogates Lena and informs her about a place called “The Shimmer”, an ever-growing orb of light that messed Kane up. This prompts Lena to volunteer and join Ventress on the next mission, along with paramedic Anya (Gina Rodriguez), genius scientist Josie (Tessa Thompson), and ex-military Sheppard (Tuva Novotny). They venture into “The Shimmer”, but what they find on the other side is a life altering experience for everyone involved.
Annihilation has a perfect narrative pace, bouncing between Lena's life before “The Shimmer” existed and what happens after, when the group enters inside its mysterious realm. It is not a specific city or state, we know it's along the coast, but this is a glowing, living forrest, like something plucked right out of a fairy tale. One of the underlying themes is about life on a cellular level, where all things become connected. Plants merge into animals, trees twist around homes, and mysterious creatures lurk in the night. What Garland seems to be noodling with is humanities constant fight with our surroundings. A planet that refuses us, grows and mutates without caring for those who get in the way. Then again, the interpretations of Annihilation are boundless.
I was absolutely fascinated with Garland's use of light. “The Shimmer” looks like a giant bubble of dish soap, glistening and reflecting all around. On the mission, Lena will experience her own personal reflection of self, fighting against a science she cannot understand, mistakes she may have made, while hoping to find an answer for her husbands disappearance. This thing is changing the humans on the inside, in ways that each character is aware of, while making their skin crawl with paranoid fear. And trust me, Annihilation is a movie that will make you recoil in your seat, then force you to lean in closer with each passing scene. Not to mention, we get fantastic performances all-around, eye-popping visuals from Rob Hardy projecting the lights, and a score from Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury that struck me to my core.
I could talk about Annihilation for days, months, years. Alex Garland has constructed another magnificent and mind-bending science fiction masterpiece. Natalie Portman delivers a complex, emotional lead performance, something she seems to do in her sleep. This is as sharp a film as science fiction gets. Don't just run to go see this movie, sprint. Annihilation is amazing!
Written by: Leo Brady