Annihilation is the new movie by Alex Garland, who directed one of the best sci-fi movies of the 2000s with Ex-Machina. I am a huge fan of Ex-Machina, so I was naturally pretty excited for Annihilation. Natalie Portman plays an ex-military soldier turned biologist. Her husband played by Oscar Isaac went on a top secret mission a year ago and when he returns Portman’s character sees that something is off with him. She then learns about the shimmer which is a force field like area that is spreading. She soon wants to join a group of 4 female scientists are headed into the shimmer. It just so happens that Portman’s character is a biologist, which is the only major scientific field not represented by the other ladies on the mission currently. Why they did not already have a biologist on the team I don’t know.
The best quality about this movie is how provocative it is. This is one of those films that just eats away at you and is impossible to stop thinking about. This story has a lot of twists and turns that are pretty hard to anticipate. It also does an amazing job of relaying exposition to the audience. In an information heavy movie like this, films can tend to just blab information at you, but Annihilation assumes that the people watching are smart enough to follow along. Within the first five minutes of the movie the base work for Lena (Portman) is completed layed out for us. It is then through flashbacks that we have to piece together the puzzle of her character and the film itself.
This is one of those movies that is just perfectly cast throughout. Portman and Isaac have some undeniable chemistry on screen. Tessa Thompson and Gina Rodriguez shine as well. Jennifer Jason Leigh is okay but to be honest, I found her performance a bit lacking and kind of robotic. While the talent in the movie is great, one of the standouts for me was Alex Garland. He is quickly becoming one of the best sci-fi directors working today. You can tell he has a great respect and also a knack for working with genre.
If I had one central complaint with this movie it would have to be the story structure. Right at the beginning of the movie we find out that Natalie Portman’s character is alive and when she is asked about the fate of the other women with her on the expedition she replies and lays out the outcomes of every main character in the movie. This took a lot of suspense out of the film for me and while the non-linear story structure is not necessarily a bad thing I wish that part would have been left out.
There is really not much wrong with Annihilation, it is about as close to a sci-fi masterpiece as they come. I really can’t say that I like it as much as Ex-Machina, but I didn’t expect it to truthfully. This is a fully ambitious movie that goes for broke and delivers fully on what it promises. I love movies that are provocative and make you wonder what exactly you just watched when you walk out of the theater. I will probably be thinking about Annihilation for quite a long time.