Annihilation delivers a stunning addition to the sci-fi genre. The film revolves around a team of 5 women, each with a different skill set (biologist, physicist, geologist, paramedic and a psychologist), who are sent to investigate a strange meteor that is altering its surrounding environment and eventually Earth. Writer and Director Alex Garland (somewhat adapting a novel by Jeff VanderMeer) takes this typical sci-fi plot and elevates it, converting it to a journey full of tension and terror. Lena (Natalie Portman) is a biology professor mourning the death of her husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) – a soldier presumed KIA. After about a year, he returns with no memory of what happened and eventually falls into a coma. Wanting to understand what happened to her husband, Lena volunteers to be part of the squad going in to investigate the phenomenon.
The first few shots of the film seem similar to the 2016 sci-fi movie, Arrival. However, as the film progresses, Garland beautifully molds together mutated beasts, gruesome human remains and advanced aliens with sensitive themes such as depression, grief and self-destruction. When one decides to watch a sci-fi film, they walk in expecting laser guns and superficial action sequences. But annihilation adopts a more plot heavy approach. There’s an unnerving chill about the horror that lies ahead because we’re never really sure what form it will take.
The end of the movie as well, brilliantly shot, with powerful twists leaves the audience with a lot of questions. There’s a lot in the movie but it never manages to seem overstuffed or incongruously meshed together.
The one aspect that especially stands out are the visuals. It would definitely pass as a ‘drug movie.’ Adopting dark and bright colour scales, the environment inside area X creates a beautiful balance between magical and horrifying. One may or may not like the lot but the visuals will be definitely be enjoyed by everyone. The scenes in the village inside area X and the lighthouse on the beach are nothing less than gorgeous. The stand-out factor lies in the ability of the movie to transition between beautiful landscapes to the most gruesome images human remains. The visuals itself ensures an enjoyable watch, probably going to be dubbed as ‘trippy shit.’ The insidiously effective background score assist the brilliant visuals to deliver the complete package.
The actors do a decent job, nothing out of the ordinary; however justify the story and visuals. Portman leads strongly with a fiercely compelling presence but the highlight for me was Tessa Thompson as a self-harming physicist Josie, giving a slow, quietly heartbreaking performance, poles apart from her portrayal of Valkyrie in the MCU. Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gena Rodriguez and Tuva Nuvatny make impactful impressions in small roles as well.
Yes, the film does tend to drag at times but a an enjoyable spectacle nonetheless.
All in all, Annihilation promises a good watch, definitely not a waste of 2 hours. Annihilation, while reminiscent of other sci-fi and horror films, remains an unusual proposition for a studio. It’s scary at times but then also contemplative and opaque and the intriguing ending will prove divisive. Garlands continue his success after Ex-Machina with the impactful annihilation. Though the film may not be enjoyed on a theatre screen (barring China) it will shock, fascinate and haunt audiences, whatever screen it’s watched on.
Aman’s Rating – N/A Aryamaan’s Rating – 72/100