Alex Garland has changed the way of how we see horror and science-fiction. He first received attention from writing the screenplays for the zombie movies 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later. His directorial debut, Ex Machina, became one of the best sci-fi movies of the century. Not only does it generate brilliant ideas and makes you think, it also makes you send shivers down your spine and goes in ways you can never imagine. Annihilation, his sophomore feat (in which he also wrote the screenplay), marks his return to the wonderful world of the two genres.
Based on the book by Jeff VanderMeer, Lena (Natalie Portman) is a biology professor with military background. She’s dealing with the loss of her husband Kane (Oscar Isaac, the second collaboration with Garland) for about a year. One day, she ends up at a government facility and meets psychologist Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh). She assigns Lena to embark on a mission into “The Shimmer”, an environmental disaster zone where an alien presence is presumed to be located. Along with physicist Josie (Tessa Thompson, Thor: Ragnarok), geologist Cass (Tuva Novotny), and paramedic Anya (Gina Rodriguez), Lena discovers the mysterious area of flashing colors and mystical creatures. Once they enter The Shimmer, they will never be the same.
It’s better going in Annihilation without knowing too much of the narrative. I certainly had no idea what I was in for until the movie started. After the movie, I had a similar reaction to Arrival, another sci-fi movie. It blew me away yet I knew I had to see it again.
Portman, leading a gifted cast, delivers the best performance of her career as Lena, who traces her husband’s team’s tracks into the unknown. It doesn’t take long for her and the team to go the downward spiral into madness. This is something terrifying yet truly dazzling. It’s the old-fashioned science-fiction containing unique ideas overshadowing overblown action. The final act (containing minimal dialogue) is something to behold like the rest of the movie. One of the best films so far this year!