Director: Alex Garland / Screenplay: Alex Garland / Release date: 12 March 2018
Actors: Natalie Portman / Genre: Thriller/Horror ‧ 2h
Sometimes a film comes along that reminds me why I watch films in the first place.
Annihilation brings us the “Shimmer”. A strange phenomenon brought forth from falling asteroid. Yes. A bloody asteroid! What do we do when we find a Shimmer? We submit to the inevitable horror shenanigans and investigate.
Best send in the scientists.
Natalie Portman stars as Lena. A woman that has reasons for doing the things she does. Everyone in the film has bloody good reasons for doing things. It’s refreshing. No-one does anything out of turn. No-one acts like a lousy reason to get eaten. The film trusts the audience to keep up and we rarely have to suffer tedious exposition.
In short, the film has a witty pace.
Whilst Natalie Portman is the focal point of the film she has a solid cast surrounding her. The supporting four scientists each have their moments and nothing feels skipped over or rushed. There is no dead time in this film. Speaking of dead, when grim events do transpire, it is genuinely horrifying. The tense buildup helps and the musical score does its job remarkably well. The shimmer isn’t just a clever word as the world has a organically warped sheen to it. It’s both beautiful and feral.
Most smart-ass science-fiction films tend to play things with a massive ambiguous hat, but Annihilation is pretty clear throughout. The themes are subtle and neat and if you felt the need, you could pick the movie apart for its deeper meanings. After finishing the film I’m sure most of you won’t feel the need to watch it again. The character implications are clear and although there are interesting tidbits to dissect, most of the larger mysteries are dispelled on the first watch. This isn’t a bad thing. I bet film snobs are lining up to scream “the films not that smart”, or “the ending must be this because reasons”. Quite frankly it doesn’t matter as there is wiggle room for interpretation and I’m sure you’ll all be content with your own conclusions. I found it enthralling and free of pretension.
The marketing campaign and film itself could have been pretentious in its own right The film never screams “Look! Woman! Isn’t it clever, they can do things!” Annihilation just happens to have 5 professional people doing a job because that’s how it should be. Again, this is pleasantly refreshing.
It feels like a long time since I watched a science-fiction horror film that really nails the dread and choking tension. Annihilation feels like it’s from another era. It has that downbeat tone and cynical wit missing from contemporary attempts. Am I ranking it so highly because it has the same feel as the great science fiction horrors of the past? Maybe… maybe not, but it’s still a bloody good watch.
Take it on its own merits and Annihilation is worth your time.
Ok fine. The Andromeda Strain meets The Thing. Happy now.