Time: 115 Minutes
Natalie Portman as Lena
Jennifer Jason Leigh as Dr. Ventress
Gina Rodriguez as Anya Thorensen
Tessa Thompson as Josie Radek
Tuva Novotny as Cass Sheppard
Oscar Isaac as Kane
Director: Alex Garland
A biologist’s husband (Oscar Isaac) disappears. She puts her name forward for an expedition into an environmental disaster zone, but does not find what she’s expecting. The expedition team is made up of the biologist (Natalie Portman), a psychologist (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a physicist (Tessa Thompson), a anthropologist (Tuva Novotny), and a paramedic (Gina Rodriguez).
Annihilation was one of my most anticipated films of 2018. Not only does it have a great cast with talented people like Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Oscar Isaac involved, but it was directed by Alex Garland, who created Ex Machina, and as it was most recently revealed, the underrated and cult classic Dredd. Unfortunately, as Annihilation only had theatrical releases in America, I had to wait a couple weeks for it to release on Netflix. However it finally released recently and I got to check it out. Without revealing too much, it really did live up to the hype.
I would recommend not knowing too much about the movie before going in honestly, which is why I won’t go into too much depth in terms of plot. Aside from seeing the trailers months before, I didn’t know too much about the movie in regards to the plot and so I was pleasantly surprised by the endless amount of weird and bizarre things that happened and the themes that it contained. This movie is 2 hours long and this length actually worked well enough, it wasn’t overlong and at the same time I was really satisfied with what I saw. It really intrigued me from start to finish, it really builds up the intrigue as the movie continued. The strange things that happen in the second act only interested me even more, adding in some scenes of genuine horror, making the whole experience even more tense than it already is. I guess there are some moments when the movie drags a little bit but these moments don’t last too long. The third act is where the movie goes into some interesting directions and becomes a little ‘weird’. It’s also the point that Annihilation may lose some people because of how bizarre, or ambiguous it becomes. I was able to grasp some sort of an idea of what the last act meant but I know that a lot of people will be utterly confused by it. I get the feeling that Annihilation will require multiple viewings to understand it and will ultimately benefit hugely from this. Even though I was partially unsure about what the ending is fully meaning, I will say that this ambiguous yet excellent aspect made Annihilation even better and I’m glad Garland wasn’t afraid of going in this direction despite the risks of being polarising. I do though somewhat understand why there is a divisive response to the movie.
The cast is all great here. Natalie Portman has a very subdued, yet emotional performance, a lot of the movie seems to be riding on her (but at the same time it doesn’t feel like she is carrying the movie), and she was great. It’s one of her best performances yet, which is saying a lot to be honest. The supporting cast is also great. The rest of the team sent into the Shimmer along with Portman includes Jennifer Jason-Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson and Tuva Novotny, they were all great as well. Jennifer Jason Leigh and Gina Rodriguez particularly get some moments to really shine. Oscar Isaac also does some good work in his scenes, especially with Natalie Portman.
Alex Garland is an great director, and his direction of this movie is really fantastic. The one thing that is undeniable is that Annihilation is visually stunning and beautiful, the cinematography is incredible and the visual design is very unique. The third act is especially visually amazing, with very trippy imagery and visuals. Despite the second trailer, Annihilation isn’t a full on action/horror sci-fi film, however I will say that Garland handled the horror aspects excellently. I’m not usually the time of person to be affected by horror in movies, but there were at least a couple of scenes here that genuinely got under my skin and were unsettling (and I’m not hinting at any of them, I’ll just wait for you to discover them for yourselves). The score by Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow only added to the movie, very weird and strange, giving the film and even more bizarre vibe.
I don’t know whether I would consider Annihilation to be better than Ex Machina or not, it’s too early for me to decide that. But for now, I’ll just say that on its own, Annihilation is a fantastic sci fi film and will probably end up being one of the best movies of 2018. Don’t let the fact that it’s being released on Netflix sway you, it really is worth watching. However keep in mind, the movie isn’t really for everyone, I would recommend giving it a watch though, just as long as you sort of know what you’re in for (but not too much).