words by jake cordiner (@jjjjaketh)
Alex Garland has done it again.
I’ve been intrigued about Annihilation since the first trailer dropped a while back, so Intrigued I bought the book (written by Jeff VanderMeer) and read it almost straight away. It was excellent. So I decided, I was going to go into the film adaption as blindly as someone who had just read the fucking book it was based on can and I’m glad I did because Annihilation is a masterpiece.
Alex Garland’s film goes at its own pace. The story beats are there, but they’re warped. Mangled, rearranged (you get the idea). This is a VERY unconventional piece of work. It’s smart, and it knows it is, but it doesn’t spoon feed the audience with shitty exposition and the like. Who knew people didn’t need to be treated like fucking morons to understand relatively highbrow concepts?! Truly a revelation in itself, and a long overdue one.
Annihilation is one of the most striking films I’ve ever seen. The imagery is utterly bonkers. From the designs of the copious amounts of fauna and wildlife to the more urban looking backdrops, everything pops out of the screen and screams “LOOK AT ME THEN LOOK AT THAT THEN LOOK OVER THERE!”. That being said, it never once gets overbearing, and Garland and the VFX team knew when the perfect times to be subdued were.
I suppose I should discuss what I can of the plot without spoiling anything. Something happens at a lighthouse that causes a phenomena coined “The Shimmer” to develop and begin expanding quick. A few teams have gone in, and barely any of them have came out. One of the people who did return from The Shimmer was Kane (played by the ever fantastic Oscar Isaac). He happens to be the husband of protagonist Lena, who volunteers to be a part of an all-female team to venture into The Shimmer and find the source of the chaos. That is basically as deep as I can go without spoiling anything, but let me tell you right now my friends you are in for a hell of a ride.
The cast of Annihilation is pitch perfect. Jennifer Jason Leigh is great as the secretive Dr. Ventress, Tessa Thompson impresses as always as the innocent and inquisitive Josie and Gina Rodriguez is fantastically unhinged as Anya. But this is indisputably Natalie Portman’s film. Her performance as Lena is fucking solid gold baby. She sells the effects that The Shimmer has on the human psyche wonderfully, playing action hero one minute and almost having a full blown panic attack the next. The range Portman shows is truly brilliant. If 2016’s “Jackie” kicked off the, ugh, Portmanassaince, then Annihilation solidifies it as “Thing That Is Definitely Occurring”. Can’t wait to see what she does next.
I truly do want to cast a critical eye over this film and point out any flaws, but for the life of me, I can’t think of any. This movie is quite simply put a triumph on every front. A scary, sharp, Lovecraftian nightmare that in one moment permafucks your brain into submission and in the next massages your eyes to near ecstasy. The acting is brilliant. The cinematography and direction is brilliant. The score is brilliant… motherfucker this is a 10/10 film.
It’s remarkable that this even got made, but goddamn it all am I glad it did. See this film as soon as you can, I simply cannot recommend it enough.