Dir. Alex Garland
Reviewer. Martyn Wakefield
Alex Garland has treated us to not one but two classic movies that are icons of this generation. 28 DAYS LATER and EX_MACHINA have both reinvigorated genres that were thought well worn and now ANNIHILATION looks to do the same with the sci-fi blockbuster.
After an object hits earth and plummets to a lighthouse, the surrounding are becomes a mystical zone of mutation and as the threat of this mystery grows wider in circumference, the inevitable growth to envelope the world promises to change everything in its path, no matter the life force in its way. Added into this, Natalie Portman realises her husband was not out at war as initially thought but was part of a Government team to investigate the phenomenon and when he returns unexpectedly, she is put on a path to no return.
What soon comes to light is that the US Government have the incident under investigation and send in a group of individuals, led by Government official Jennifer Jason Leigh, to investigate after previous attempts have proven unsuccessful. As the reality unfolds as to what the Shimmer holds, the group take to any means necessary to escape.
Based on the novel of the same name, ANNIHILATION, Garland’s adaptation does differ slightly to Jeff VanderMeers work but retains the core of what made the novel so appealing. From the hybrid residents of the Shimmer to the nihilistic nature of the squad, there is a sense of mystery and doom from the outset. As soon as the group enter the Shimmer it is known that there will be no good come from this exploration.
The film captures the essence of a universal disaster on such a subtle scale that when it finally clicks what is happening on screen, the damage the incident can cause becomes so much more dangerous. Propped up by a stellar cast, including Oscar Isaacs and Tessa Thompson, the team of survivalists hold their screen time well as they fight through fear, the unknown and ultimately the greatest revelation to what they are actually dealing with, without any communication with the outside world. Portman’s lead, manages to portray a sense of awe as she comes to realisation leaving the final moments on film all that more mesmerising.
How this film has completely missed the cinema is further proof that big home cinema corporations are killing off the big screen. The Netflix original is packed full of spectacular imagery and a superb sound suite that can easily be exploited on as big a screen as possible. There is no holding back on Garland’s vision and while the film has its brain in the masterclass of science fiction, there are enough moments of sheer terror that will leave you terrified to go out to the woods. The visual aesthetic of ANNIHILATION is enough o rival the likes of ARRIVAL and SOLARIS for big screen science fiction and while to subject is at times bewildering, is not near as incomprehensible as critics may have you think.
At times, the film will have you think you are watching a true remake of THE THING directed by David Cronenberg as the body horror of the metamorphosis of the creatures in the Shimmer is terrifyingly addictive, at a run time of just 2 hours, it’s a shame the world of ANNIHILATION is not as big as the likes of AVATAR as this is certainly a world we would happily go back to, even if from a distance.