Annihilation Film Review
If you’re a fan of Alex Garland, you’ll probably going to enjoy seeing this movie. Annihilation. It’s his second film as a director (after the wonderful Ex Machina) but this time the movie has a female cast that’s telling the story.
Lena (Natalie Portman) is a cellular biology professor and former U.S. Army soldier. She’s mourning her MIA soldier husband Kane (Oscar Isaac), but will be much suppressed when he unexpectedly returns home. He’s not well, and they will soon be taken to a secret facility run by Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh). There Lena will find out that Kane is the sole survivor from a secret mission to Area X, and that Ventress is prepping to lead an all-female mission herself to the area. There is an anomaly called “the shimmer” in that area and its expanding fast. Nothing (well except Kane) comes out of there alive, and along with the physicist Josie Radeck (Tesaa Tompson) anthropologist, Cass Sheppard (Tuva Novotny) a geologist, and the paramedic Anya Thorensen (Gina Rodriguez) they all have to go there, find it and deal with the shimmer.
While I was watching Annihilation, I loved the apparent parallels that the movie had with Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker but as a woman I loved how this movie was the opposite from every (male) soldier on a mission movie. It was the opposite from The Predator and even Saving Private Ryan. Let me explain. In most of those movies you’ll see long and meaningless chit chat walking scenes that are supposed to bond the characters while they are headed to their mission, but in reality they are fillers to pass the running time of the movie in a less painful way.
They can be really informative and they can be really boring sometimes, but I loved the fact that here in Annihilation (apart from one scene) there is nothing like that. The women are crossing a swamp and Shepperd is briefly introducing the rest of the characters. Their back-story is kept short, but enough to fill the pieces of their actions and character. Josie wears long sleeve shirts to hide her scars, Anya is a recovering addict, Cass is barely functioning after the death of her daughter, and Ventress is dying from a terminal cancer. Even Cass says that they’re damaged goods.
But besides having four women who are so broken beyond repair that agree to go out on a suicide mission like this one, the movie also deals with depression and self-destruction almost to a biological level. “Almost all of us self-destruct,” Isn’t self-destruction coded into us, in every cell?” Dr. Ventress says to Lena, and i secretly loved that. They may not be the most stable and emotionally prepared people, but here it’s not a requirement.
I also loved how the horror elements of the movie are spaced enough to be scary and menacing, but not to turn this film into a full on horror movie. I also had some appreciation of the flash-back scenes between Lena, Daniel (her lover) and Kane (her husband). They gave the story balance, and we the audience had the full scope of how her marriage and life was unfolding before her mission. I didn’t however enjoyed the interrogation scenes between Lena and Lomax (Benedict Wong). They are repetitious and really don’t bring much in terms of development or explanation about the mission.
The acting is solid from almost every single lady (most notably Jennifer, Tessa and Natalie) and Oscar is not bad either, even with his limited screen time. But, I have qualms about the ending and how stretched it was. Frankly the last 30 minutes of the Annihilation are the trippiest, and confusing 30 minutes I’ve seen on film in a long time. It’s also the most visually stunning and you can really see the craftsmanship of the VFX team there. Before reaching the lighthouse, it was the set production team that shine through, but the special effects were on point at the very end.
I can’t say that Annihilation is an easy film. Nor pleasant to watch. But I guarantee that it will make you think when it’s not making you sick. There are solid questions to be asked after watching it, and on so many subjects. Alex Garland out did himself once again, but most importantly he showed us one thought provoking, well directed and i have to say very weird movie.