Science fiction is witnessing a revival of sorts. And not just popcorn science fiction like the Star Wars films (which I adore) but more thought provoking, real science theory movies like Interstellar, The Martian and Passengers. And they are coming in all shapes and sizes. From blockbusters like Ready Player One, Blade Runner 2049 and the Star Trek films, to smaller films like Arrival, Midnight Special, and Alex Garlands brilliant Ex Machina. Garland gained much attention for his intimate, character driven sci fi tale and now he returns with his second feature behind the camera, Annihilation.
Cellular biology professor and former U.S. Army soldier Lena’s (Natalie Portman) husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) returns after disappearing a year before on a secret mission into a mysterious environmental disaster zone known as ‘The Shimmer’. Within the area every living thing is affected in some way, it’s actual cellular make up altered. The government can’t seem to figure out what the strangely affected area and when anyone is sent into it, they never return. And when Kane is the first to come back, something about him is different. Now Lena, along with a select team of women selected for their areas of scientific expertise, become the newest team to venture into The Shimmer to try and get answers. But none of them could be prepared for the inexplicable things they are about to witness.
Garland really has a knack for sci fi that messes with your mind. Whether it be moral questions about technology as in Ex Machina, or questions about alien existence and their intentions like in Annihilation, he pushes the boundaries and never spells out the answers for audiences. It is also important to note that while these two films are his first two as director (he also wrote both), he worked as a writer beforehand and wrote such modern classics as 28 Days Later…, the underrated and brilliant Sunshine, and the cult favorite Dredd. This is a man who knows sci-fi. Annihilation is a beautiful and layered film that is sure to spark hours of conversation afterwards trying to decipher exactly what is going on within the story. There are many indicators and clues throughout the film, or you can just go and read the novel, but it is a story open to interpretation and leaves you wanting desperately to see what happens next. The cast are all phenomenal including Natalie Portman, Tessa Thomson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, and Tuva Novotny, as well as Oscar Isaac in a smaller but pivotal role. The production design is gorgeous as well, this is a film that really shines on Blu-ray. And I must mention it has one of the most terrifying scenes put on film in recent memory. Annihilation is a sure bet if you have been craving something different. Highly recommended.