A biologist signs up for a dangerous, secret expedition into a mysterious zone where the laws of nature don’t apply.
I loved Annihilation when it was published back in 2014 and devoured it and its sequels as soon as they were released, so I was really interested when I saw that a film version was on the cards. It’s taken me this long to watch it because although I have Netflix we didn’t (until very recently) have a smart TV, and I had heard that it was best to watch this on the biggest screen possible. So when our new TV was installed this was the first movie I watched by myself.
So as the description above explains, Natalie Portman is a biologist who takes part in an expedition into an area of the country known as the Southern Reach where something, possibly extraterrestrial, has led to something called the Shimmer, where nature and time are corrupted. Natalie’s character has become involved because her husband (Oscar Isaac), missing for a year, suddenly returns and she finds out that his secret mission was one in a line of expeditions which have all failed – no-one has come back before him.
The new team is made up of Natalie and four other women – in the books they have no names and are just described by their roles – and one of the strengths of the film is watching a team of intelligent and brave women working together to solve a problem. When things fall apart they do so in the same way that all of the other missions were affected, mostly due to paranoia.
What makes this special for me is that the film doesn’t shy away from the horrors of a place where things are so out of whack. There are deformed animals including the most frightening bear you will ever see on screen and evidence that the teams before them did some terrible things – a gruesome and shocking piece of footage from her husband’s expedition in particular. The film also doesn’t skimp on beautiful visuals showing just how strange the world inside the Shimmer can be – plants growing in the shape of humans, strange colours and so on.
It is such a shame that Annihilation wasn’t given a theatrical release, especially as it seems to have been due to the studio freaking out that the film was too intellectually challenging, which makes me sad. Don’t get me wrong, if you’ve been reading here for a while you will know that I love science fiction in all its forms, however “dumb”, but sometimes it’s nice to have a film that gets you thinking long afterwards (and not because you’re trying to fill in major plot holes).
Also pleased to say my Tessa Thompson girl-crush is firmly in place.
It’s bloody and creepy and beautiful. I loved it and will be watching it again I’m sure.
Dazzling details – Alex Garland directed, the film is 1h 55m long and rated 15 for strong language, gore, sex