Did I intentionally watch two high-concept science fiction movies one after the other? Nope. Do I regret it? When they’re as gorgeously horrific as Annihilation is, not for one damn second.
Alex Garland (Ex Machina, Devs) directs this soul-filled, utterly bonkers sci-fi thriller, which stars big names Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac and Tessa Thompson front and centre in leading roles. After Lena (Portman) discovers her Green Beret boyfriend Kane (Isaac) has returned from his latest mission completely changed with a touch of amnesia, she quickly finds out that the US government have been keeping secrets from their people. Those secrets just so happen to be terrifying; the top secret ‘Area X’ contains what is known as a ‘shimmer’, which happens to be devouring the coast of America at a consistently rapid rate. Now Lena knows of this government facility, she is recruited to join an all-female team that will enter the shimmer in order to try and find out what is going on behind its outer façade. What they find when they enter its depths however are more mystifying and utterly frightening than they could have ever imagined.
Read this very carefully: go in blind. I know a lot of people have already seen this movie since it’s a Netflix Original, but if you’re one of the few that haven’t, dive in head first and brace yourself for the ride. I understand that you may have read the above synopsis by now, but at least I didn’t give anything away.
Natalie Portman remains to be one of the greatest actors of her generation; her performance here is simply outstanding. Though there’s not much lightness amongst the dark, she plays both sides of her character with apparent ease and just the right amount of gusto. Then, Tessa Thompson and co show up. That is a girl gang I wanna be in. Just take a look at the picture below: it’s like the all-female Ghostbusters sequel we never knew we wanted.
Some of the shots in this film are so inventive and original, which again, you may have gathered judging by the images I’ve selected for this review. Even the cinematography in the “real world” is so detailed and spectacular to look at, such as the shot of hands through a glass of water at the start of the movie. Every choice made is a valiant effort at keeping every second of the runtime visually interesting. Pure brilliance from Alex Garland, even if the CGI is occasionally a little patchy, but I’m just being picky in that regard.
Narratively, Annihilation is completely different to any sci-fi/fantasy film I’ve ever seen and perhaps the only other movie I can compare it to is Arrival, which has a really special place in my heart so that’s perhaps the biggest compliment I can give it. The story is perfectly paced, well executed, never boring, mysterious and enigmatic. Brilliant writing, casting, and storyboarding all round. Did I fully understand the ending? No. Does it matter? Not really.
Combine everything I’ve just said with a marvellous score, and what a movie we have on our hands. This is so criminally underrated in a way that is completely baffling to me – the only reason I can think that it’s rated so averagely is that it’s basically an all-female cast and people are sexist. I said what I said. And I said it bluntly.
Annihilation is available to stream on Netflix in the UK.
TQR Category Ratings:
Costume & Set Design:
Overall Rating: ½