The best way to describe Annihilation would be the word “ambitious”. Written and directed by Alex Garland, who is best known for Ex Machina, it’s an interesting sci-fi film that allows the audience to have their own interpretation after coming out of the theatre.
Based on a novel written by Jeff VanderMeer, the film focuses on Natalie Portman’s character Lena, a biology professor who joins a group of scientists in order to investigate The Shimmer, which is quarantined by the government. It’s important to keep the story vague for you guys, because this is one of those rare films that anything you say might become a spoiler to anyone who hasn’t seen it. It’s best to keep this one as a surprise.
Once again, Natalie Portman completely shines in the lead role, and it’s good to see that her acting heavily improved after she finished the Star Wars prequel trilogy. She is able to make her character relatable, and you want her to succeed. Throughout the film, you understand her struggle and the personal pain she’s dealing with. The rest of the cast is also great, and they all give away fantastic performances. The whitewashing controversy aside, they all equally get some efficient amount of screen time, and they’re also able to carry the film with their fun personalities. When you have a film with Oscar Isaac, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Tessa Thompson, that’s automatically a win right there! The only character that kind of feels underdeveloped is Lena’s colleague played David Gyasi, and there are times his appearance doesn’t do anything for the story.
While it’s mainly categorized in the sci-fi genre, it does also feel like a horror film at times. Garland is able to make the audience feel the characters’ intensity and fear throughout the film, and he has the talent to make the story thought-provoking, which actually adds some replay value. He has a clear way of knowing how he wants the movie to be filmed, and showcases the beauty of The Shimmer with stunning cinematography and visuals. The world is dangerous and filled with mutated animals, but that doesn’t change the fact it’s great to look at.
However, there are moments in the movie that feel completely choppy, and sometimes the film goes back and forth too much with its flashbacks, especially with Oscar Isaac and David Gyasi’s characters. When it’s taking place in The Shimmer, it’s very mesmerizing and intense. But the first fifteen minutes dragged a little bit in the pacing, because they obviously needed to set up Natalie Portman’s character. While it does feel long in some sequences, you then realize how important they are to tell the story. However, they don’t mesh well with the film’s narrative structure all the time.
Annihilation might be a film that you need to watch twice in order to fully comprehend what the filmmaker was going for. This might be a gripe for some people, but the film doesn’t give the audience all the answers right away. It asks you to pay attention, and wants you to make up your own interpretation of the overall story the moment you finish watching the movie. It’s trippy for sure, but you can’t deny it’s an intense and intriguing time at the movie theatre. If you like films such as Ridley Scott’s Alien, Annihilation might be for you.
Annihilation is now playing in theatres.