ANNIHILATION [2018]


Alex Garland’s second directorial effort again lands itself in the science-fiction genre, 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.” This 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 a spin on the cinematic trope of the last moments of a story being shown at the start, but we are given no information. Lena (Natalie Portman), the biologist, sits in a sterile room, looking confused, as men in white hazmat suits question her about the mission that makes up the main story. She can’t muster an answer other that ‘I don’t know’ to almost all the questions she is asked. The film then seamlessly transitions to her life before the mission, as she teaches a biology class.

Having not seen her husband for a year, assumed to be dead, she decides to paint their bedroom. As she is doing so, her husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) silently walks up the stairs and appears at the bedroom doorway, staring through her. A memorable shot of her clasping his hands at the dinner table is shot through a glass of water, aptly displaying that Kane has changed somehow. He is suddenly taken away by an ambulance, severely unwell, and she is given a sedative to knock her out.

Soon she finds herself in what looks like a hospital, disorientated. Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason-Leigh), a psychiatrist, eventually walks in to explain what has happened. Something struck the earth at a lighthouse, and the ‘Shimmer’ it emits is growing. With many theories and no facts, and every person sent in never returning, she volunteers to join another mission into The Shimmer, this time with less of a focus on military as the group is made of female scientists.

The five women enter the Shimmer, where anything can happen next. Almost immediately, Lena is opening her tent that she nor any of the others can remember setting up. Four days have passed. They find that their compass is spinning wildly, and that is just the first of many otherworldly events that happen in this place that truly does seem like another world.

The laws of nature not applying is an understatement, as there is something very wrong with the ecology of the place, as we see different species of plants growing as one, a deer with plants on its antlers. There is cellular mutating everywhere, and as the group ventures further into the Shimmer, there are sudden bursts of action to stab into the tense atmosphere and terrific score. There are certainly moments that are legitimately scary, a video they find in particular is haunting. The strange ecology manifests itself in increasingly unsettling ways, culminating in a final act and ending that can be chewed on for days.


This film sticks with you. You want to see it again  because the ending left so many questions,. What will happen to Lena and Kane. What exactly was the shimmer? Does the lighthouse represent anything? Was it trying to help us evolve? The world of the Shimmer is so interesting, so unique and it doesn’t make anything obvious. It is truly otherworldly, like another planet that has a Shimmer that eats all cells of kinds, and builds a world much like what is seen as the movie. This is a film I could watch over and over.

Seven out of a sixer. An unforgettable film.

6/6

29 Comments on “ANNIHILATION [2018]

  1. I’m so mad it is not playing here in the states! I read Mark’s review and he loved it, too. I can’t even see it on Netflix. Yet.
    Great review–love Alex Garland books and films. Sounds like a fine adapted screenplay.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The U.S. is actually the only country in which it was released in theaters. North America and China, apparently. You may have to do some searching for a theater playing it, though. Hopefully it is somewhat nearby you. It really needs to be seen on the big screen. More importantly than that, though, is that it just needs to be seen, period. It is just such a unique and visionary film. My two cents, anyway.

      Like

      • Yeah I am too. Very poor distribution. So its not playing near you at all I take it? That is so frustrating!

        Liked by 1 person

      • That really shows where movies are at these days. It’s sad, it’s almost like it is turning into what music industry has become. I think it is because there are too many stupid people in the world who’d hate this but go see a superhero movie even if they aren’t into cinema that much. Its what the world is turning into I think. Heh, I am such a snob. =/

        Liked by 1 person

      • Do it. It looks incredible, they really used the budget well. And the ending will keep you thinking for days, perhaps weeks! That is what is happening to me right now, its just so, so good!!

        Like

      • Good point! Much like your post about talking w/ your daughter about Blade Runner 2049. I need to watch that one again so I can finally do a top ten of last year. Just a few months too late!

        Like

    • I really really need to read the book this was based on. Its just so incredibly thoughtful and unique, the is nothing else like it.

      Watch it soon!!! 🙂

      Like

  2. Top rating from you as well! Holy hell, this film struck a chord. I LOVE it!!!!

    Like

    • hell yeah my man you were on the money. This is the first in a long time that had me legit scared…that camcorder video…FUCK!! Incredible stuff. My Dad loved it too, sci-fi is his thing hehe

      The distribution of films is going to go this way I think… at least films like this. Morons are going to hate it, you just know it, they’d probably lose money distributing it worldwide.

      What do you think the Shimmer was? I think it was somehow trying to make the entire earth evolve… or devolve? Fuck its such a head scratcher!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • To me it represented the limits of human understanding. What happens the day mankind realizes it isn’t at the top of the food chain? What happens the day we as a species are challenged by something bigger and more intelligent?

        I also think it could be a metaphorical representation of death. Not specifically as the inevitable result of cancer, as many have alluded to (which is legitimate as well with all the focus on cells and genetic mutation), but just the dying part itself. To get really heavy here, the gift of life is also damnation. We understand that we at some point die, but we have no idea what lies beyond. That ignorance is a major factor in why people turn spiritual. Or why some people despair over their inability to find meaning in life. The Shimmer could be this suggestion that what happens in death isn’t necessarily BAD, but its weird and beyond anything we in this world can understand or envision.

        Thats probably all bullshit though. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • Damn man you really are good at analysing movies. Could be bullshit but its your interpretation, and I don’t think such a thing could ever be ‘wrong’.

        I didn’t take anything meaningful from the movie, I’m a bit useless in that area! But I agree with your theory, or at least definitely think its a valid interpretation.

        Like

  3. Great post 🙂 I really have to see this because I was a huge fan of director Alex Garland’s first film Ex Machina. Do you think this is a whole new level of awesomeness for Garland? Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is a whole new universe of awesomeness for Garland mate. I can’t stop thinking about it, already watched it four times. Looking forward to getting a 4K version.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I am so glad you loved it too! I really am hoping to find the time to watch it again I cannot possibly properly review it without a rewatch

    Liked by 1 person

    • Areed, just way too much awesome stuff happening. That camcorder video bit is one of the freakiest things I have ever seen in a movie too

      Like

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  7. Glad you loved it and I’m happy this type of thought-provoking sci-fi is still getting made. I liked Annihilation, especially for Portman’s anxious performance and the brilliant lighthouse sequence. The suspense was well done by keeping us guessing as to the mystery, though I’m not sure I cared about the supporting cast, and to me Tarkovsky’s 1979 film Stalker, which Garland borrows from, is more original.

    Liked by 1 person

    • agree about Stalker. I didn’t notice that but you are spot on. The tension during that bear sequence, THAT CAMCORDER scene good god it still haunts me.

      And that ending is one of the best I have ever seen I agree…

      I do agree though about the other characters. I cared about JJl’s character cos there was more background and JJL is always awesome. The other two (three?) though, it was like they were given simple plot devices to be the reason they are coming along (I lost a kid, she cuts her wrists etc) with nothing to elaborate on this.

      Certainly a movie to chew on. I want to read the book now. I also really wanna watch Stalker :D. And Solaris, which is kinda similar as well if you think about it

      Liked by 1 person

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