Alex Garland’s second directorial effort is another science-fiction tale, though this time around it is not as easy to explain. The synopsis for the film doesn’t show any of its cards, simply stating that, “A biologist signs up for a dangerous, secret expedition where the laws of nature don’t apply.”
Annihilation is an experience that requires all your focus. Don’t blink. It is a mind-twisting science-fiction experience like no other. The creativity shown is an incredible achievement, not to mention the unique visual effects and an incredibly effective sense of dread that rivals the best of thrillers.
The film starts with Lena (Natalie Portman), the biologist, sits in a sterile room, looking confused, as men in white hazmat suits questioning her about the mission that makes up the main story. She can’t muster an answer other than ‘I don’t know’. The film then seamlessly transitions to the present day, before the mission, as she teaches a biology class.
Having not seen her husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) for a year, assumed to be dead, Lena decides to finally paint their bedroom. As she is doing so, Kane silently walks up the stairs and appears at the bedroom doorway, staring through her. A memorable moment at her dinner table, shot through a glass of water, aptly conveys that Kane has changed somehow.
Lena eventually finds herself in what looks like a hospital, disorientated. Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a psychiatrist, explains that something struck the earth, and the ‘Shimmer’ it emits is growing. With many theories and no facts about what it actually is, Lena volunteers to join a group of five female scientists on the latest mission into The Shimmer.
Almost immediately strange and seemingly otherworldly events begin to occur.
The laws of nature do not apply as there is something very wrong with the ecosystem of the place. Different species of plants grow as one, a deer has plants on its antlers, and there is cellular mutating everywhere. As the group ventures further into the Shimmer, Garland incorporates sudden bursts of action to stab into the tense atmosphere.
Thanks in part to the terrific score, there are moments in the film that are legitimately scary. The strange ecology manifests itself in increasingly unsettling ways, culminating in a final act that one will be thinking about for days.
Annihilation sticks with you. The ending left so many questions that you will wat to see this one multiple times to decipher it all.