Annihilation

RATED - (R) -115-MIN-2018

               Annihilation is a smart and scary, thought provoking Sci-Fi film.

The movie Annihilation is appropriately titled. After something crashes from the sky into a lighthouse in Florida, things start to get weird. A strange vertical wall of iridescent, watery looking light, starts to emanate around the lighthouse. This wall or "shimmer" as is it referred to by the military, is slowly expanding outward, overtaking and engulfing anything in its path. They are concerned of course and send in soldiers to investigate. Once they are inside, all communication with the outside world is lost, and no one comes back....except for one. It has been three years since the shimmer appeared, and the powers that be are very concerned. Soon it will reach cities.

The film starts in the present, and then, in a series of flashbacks, fills in the holes. The talented writer/director (Alex Garland) of the fabulous (Ex-Machina) weaves his eery and beautiful sci-fi mystery with an effective foreboding tone. It is a very intriguing setup. Like all good films in this genre, it gives you some food for thought, and poses the larger question of what it means to be a human, where consciousness and survival clash, and how we all fit in this universe, right down to our DNA. Make no mistake about, at times Annilhation is genuinely scary, and in one particular long standout sequence, just as creepy.

We meet our main character Lena (Natalie Portman), as she is being interviewed in a secret location by a man and many scientists wearing full contamination suits to protect themselves from whatever she was exposed to in the shimmer. She is only the second person to return and seems to be doing much better physically than the other man who came out, although she is clearly traumatized by her journey.  He is on life support, and close to death. His name is Kane (Oscar Isaac) and he is Lena's husband. She went into the shimmer to find him. The military wants to know what she saw, and what happened to the others who were with her.

We see how Kane wandered back to the house he shared with his now grieving wife who is ex-military herself, and now teaches biology at John Hopkins. Lena has been in a haze since Kane disappeared, and she is doing her best to keep busy.
She keeps having memories of their life together and has some regrets over some of her decisions since Kane disappeared. She is beside herself with joy over her husband's reappearance, but he is very different and doesn't seem to remember anything about what happened to him. When he starts to get very ill, they are rushed to the hospital in an ambulance but are cut off by the military and whisked away to a facility called the Southern Reach just outside the perimeter of The Shimmer.

With her husband clinging to death, she is told by Dr. Ventress ( a very solemn and good Jennifer Jason Leigh), that Kane is the only person who has come out of the shimmer. Ventress, a psychologist, will now lead a team of woman specialists into The Shimmer to try and reach the lighthouse, to determine what the hell is going on. Lena is intrigued.

One night, over drinks, looking at The Shimmer from above, she meets the woman's group who are about to embark on their journey. We meet Anya (Gina Rodriguez), Josie (Tessa Thompson) and Cass (Tuva Novotny). Each of these women has their area of specialty which will suit them on their mission. They also have their own personal reason for going, despite the danger involved. Over some bonding, Lena decides that she must also go. She is a scientist, so she is intrigued, but she also wants to know what is in there.

So off they go, with rifles in hand, into The Shimmer. Once in, time becomes vague, and they all feel a bit disorientated, as the shimmer affects all electronics, and the compass is useless. Everything has a rainbow-like sheen to it, and the vegetation of different species seem to be merging and making something new. It has also done some interesting things to the animals in the shimmer. I must say, that visually, the film captures the uneasy feeling of a dream, which adds much to the experience. You've seen visuals sort of like this before in films, but not quite. Coupled with an effective score, it creates a very fitting mood for the film.


All of the actresses do a fine job, even though some of their screen time for backstory is limited. I have always liked (Natalie Portman), and she delivers another strong performance here. She is fittingly stoic, but letting out hints of her character's feelings when necessary. It is a tricky thing, but she delivers. She was a good choice. (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is a bit peculiar, but as you get to know her character's motivation, her actions make more sense. (Gina Rodriguez) has a pivotal scene later, as things with the team start to break down, and paranoia sets in.

The film is split up into three chapters: (Area X), (The Shimmer), and of course, (The Lighthouse.) This made me think of Kubrick's chapters from (The Shining), which is funny because (Garland's Ex Machina) had echoes of that famous director to me also. The ending was a bit confusing at first, but as it went on, it seemed to me to be trying to make a bigger statement, about how when we don't understand something, it appears magical. The universe is constantly expanding and changing, and so are we. Sometimes things have to be destroyed first, before we can move forward and evolve. As I said earlier, the movie has an appropriate title.


You should see this movie.


watch the trailer: