Filmmaker Alex Garland, who previously wrote and directed the brilliant Ex Machina released in 2015, now brings us Annihilation. Not only is this his best film yet, but is one of the greatest and most thought-provoking science fiction films released this decade.
A biologist named Lena (Natalie Portman) signs to go on an extremely dangerous mission with various other women, which is entering a mysterious area known as “The Shimmer.” Not too many people want to go on this expedition, as everybody that has previously ventured into The Shimmer has never come back. Various rumours are spread speculating what happened to the individuals that entered before.
As a big fan of the aforementioned Ex Machina, I was naturally excited to see what director and writer Garland would do with this film. Additionally, it is an adaptation of the 2014 novel of the same name by Jeff VanderMeer. I have not yet read the novel, but after watching the brilliant Annihilation film, I am going to immediately read the novel, because I want to explore even further into this bizarre but beautifully interesting world.
Natalie Portman as Lena is absolutely amazing and is an extremely captivating lead character. Portman is one of the most amazing of all time to me, and with Annihilation, she proves yet again to be just that. An abundance of the emotion with her character is shown beautifully on her face, rather than through dialogue, which is something I genuinely admired with the film. Garland realized that the film would benefit from having Lena show her emotion to the audience in the way of facial expression. Even though I didn’t hear any talking going on with Portman and another actress in scenes, it was still crystal clear what was going through her mind.
Garland also does a phenomenal job setting up The Shimmer. Before Lena and her fellow team members begin to venture into the region shrouded in mystery, he informs the audience how dangerous it could be. But he carefully holds back on the why. Exactly why should Lena and company be afraid of The Shimmer? Sure, nobody has come back from it, but that does not necessarily mean they all died. Perhaps they just got lost in the large section. Even though you do not exactly know what happened during previous incidents in The Shimmer with past explorers, you still have a sense of unease running through your body when you watch our main leads go into the area.
Usually when I discuss films, I try to give readers a good, well-rounded description on what to expect when watching the film. I do my best to inform people what the film is going to be about. With Annihilation, since the film has so many white-knuckling sequences that I never saw coming, and twists and turns that caught me by surprise, it is almost impossible to delve into plot details with the film. This is one of the few films that absolutely benefits from knowing absolutely nothing before actually going to see it. If you do plan on seeing the film, I would also stay away from as many trailers as possible.
Unfortunate as it may be, dozens of casual moviegoers are going to hate Annihilation. They are going to more than likely say it is the worst movie of the year so far because they expected it to be a run of the mill horror movie with your typical cliché scares and tropes. This is genuinely upsetting, as we honestly do not get films like Annihilation anymore. Nearly every aspect of the film is wholly unique, and something we have not yet seen done in this style on the big screen yet. The film is a slow-burning build. It takes its time setting up its characters, the world, The Shimmer, and practically everything. I can see many people saying how the film was too slow, and not a whole lot of things actually happened. Annihilation is a motion picture that tells its story in a drastically different way than most films of the science fiction genre would. It’s a film in which it may actually seem like not a whole plethora of events happen during times, but there is lots going on. You just have to pay super close attention to the events going on around with the characters. The world. Everything.
Also, Annihilation contains the best cinematography in a film in years by Rob Hardy. Several scenes had me gazing in awe at how beautiful the shots were. The colors involved in these scenes also added to the overall gorgeous look of the film. Furthermore, this is a science fiction film that looks surprisingly cheery throughout the majority of the running time. There are only a few scenes that take place during the night. Every scene in the film, however, looks amazing, and although there are a lot of daylight scenes, they absolutely still ooze creepy vibes.
One of the most praise-worthy elements of Annihilation is its story. This is one of the most enthralling films I have experienced in years. Practically everything about it works. It is positively one of the most strange but at the same time terrifying movies I have seen in my entire life. Annihilation creeps up on you with its scares. The horror element of Annihilation is certainly there, but it is present in a way that is not overdone. Everything about this aspect of the film, and every other aspect of the film, feels fresh.
Annihilation is one of the most amazing and bone-chillingly bizarre films in several years. Director and writer Alex Garland has crafted an extremely unique film packed to the brim with excellent performances, especially by Natalie Portman. It is a film that is absolutely going to make numerous viewers upset because it was not a typical science fiction horror film. Nothing about Annihilation feels like it has been done before. If you are up for a film that is extremely thought-provoking with its story, which I won’t spoil, has brilliant performances all across the board, and a great message that is there, I highly recommend watching Annihilation.
To watch my video review for Annihilation, please click this link: https://youtu.be/8LH6LfGJ0GA
Overall Grade: A+
MPAA Rating: R for violence, bloody images, language and some sexuality
Cast: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson
Directed by: Alex Garland
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures (North America, China), Netflix (International)
Running Time: 115 minutes