Alex Garland’s Annihilation is a dazzling delirious dose of science fiction that will leave audiences baffled yet begging for more. This release is one which will stir up debate long after it has released digitally. Some who purchase a ticket might get the urge to get a refund after 15 minutes, but those who are patient will be rewarded with quite a payoff.
Annihilation (based on Jeff VanderMeer’s science fiction novel) centers around a professor of Biology played by Natalie Portman and the secrets surrounding her husband’s (played by Oscar Issac) disappearance and reemergence after being gone for a year. His vanishing act at first was believed to be tied to a military operation overseas but it ends up being a direct result of an unidentified shimmer. Anyone who goes inside it never makes it out. Issac’s character is the first person ever to make it out, but his freedom is shortlived when his organs begin to combust and are placed on a respirator in isolation. Faced with little facts provided by a government agent played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, Portman’s character joins a team already scheduled to jump into this phenomenon with hopes of finding a way to save her husband. Their team consists of Leigh and three other explorers played by Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, and Tuva Novotny.
Garland never allows us to see who is responsible for the shimmer till it’s absolutely necessary, but its presence generates a palpable fear throughout Annihilation. With each vital moment, the tension just ratchets up a little more till you are feeling so uncomfortable that fear begins to overwhelm moviegoers. Is it from another world? Is it something that was always here?
While anyone who checks out the movie poster will see Portman is given top billing, in reality, everyone plays an equal part in Annihilation. Leigh’s character is crushed with guilt over the lives lost in the shimmer. Rodriguez’s character is trying to rationalize something that inexplicable. All the while Thompson, Novotny, and Portman’s character are desperately looking for a scientific explanation for all of this.
Annihilation‘s pacing is similar to that of a slow burn. Some might be turned off by that, but Garland had a great handle on how this narrative had to unfold. Sometimes the best thing for a release is when a director has their hands in its adaptation. Rob Hardy’s cinematography was mindblowing, and his use of a bright color palette brought the shimmer to life.
Anyone who is planning to see Garland’s latest release needs to brace themselves for not only a few gruesome sequences (this film is rated R for a reason) but also a finale that will stick with audiences long after the credits have finished. All of these factors add up to the type of film that’s certainly worth anyone’s time (especially if someone in your family loves science fiction). Just be ready to have your mindblown walking in.