A Hauntingly Existential Film | Review of ‘Annihilation’

By Cynthia Ayala

Annihilation starring Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny & Oscar Isaac
Paramount Pictures
Image Credit: IMDB

“A biologist signs up for a dangerous, secret expedition into a mysterious zone where the laws of nature do not apply.” —IMDB

Annihilation is a thought-provoking film about an extraterrestrial event taking place near a watery coast and a lighthouse. Annihilation is a deceptively complex film about a woman who is venturing on a suicidal mission to find out what happened to her husband. However, the complexities come from what it means to be humans. Humans are complex, mentally, emotionally, and physiologically. There is nothing simple about what it means to be human, and that idea of simplicity is what this film, ultimately explores.

Lena (played by Natalie Portman) is a woman who is distraught by the loss of her husband, who went missing on a mission for 12 months. Moreover, now he has returned. However, has he? There’s something off about Kane (played by Oscar Issacs), and Lena wants answers. However, she does not want answers just for her marriage; she want’s answer because Lena feels as though she owes it to her husband, who was driven to sign up for this suicide mission by her infidelity, as eluded to in the film.

There are layers to the film, as there are in life, and Garland explores that in this sci-fi horror flick. It is a tense film that follows a group of scientists, all women, and all diverse, as they venture into this unknown bubble of extraterrestrial origin. As a story, it has a steady pace, going back and forth from Lena’s present to her past, giving the audience depth into the uneasiness that has settled over Lena ass she compares her husband to her memories of her husband. The film follows this pattern, going back and forth from the past to the present, not just exploring the dynamical shifts between the characters, but also the complexities of human nature, as stated before.

It is a slow-moving film, that is for sure, but the tension in the film, coupled with the fantastic writing, are what keep the audience glued to their seats. It is hard to pass up on a film that is both thrilling and tension driven set in a science fiction mold, especially when it has done right, and as Ex Machina showed audiences, what seems to be Gatland’s trademark, is that the slow pace of the film is purposeful. It gives the audience this feeling of unsettledness that lingers onto every scene, before exploding into this thought-provoking and riveting ending. Moreover, while the action of the film may be limited, it highlights the strength of these women as scientists.

Now, as brilliant as the film is, the cinematography is so incredibly spellbinding. On one ends, it is horrific, molding together death and live, showing the audience monsters of mutation. Then, on the other hand, it is ultimately beautiful how nature lives and thrives through death. That is not otherworldly, as it naturally occurs in nature, but to see it in the way the film presents it with special effects and cinematography, highlights the art of the film. Filmmaking is an art and Garland, and his team put much thought into making sure that while this film could be considered a sci-fi horror, the beauty of life was not lost in it.

Ultimately, this is not going to be a film for everyone. It is a slow-moving film that inspires and makes the audience think about the complexities of human nature and the layers that go into it. (★★★☆ | A)

—Film Credits—

Directed by Alex Garland

Screenplay by Alex Garland

Based on Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Starring: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny & Oscar Isaac

Rating | Length | Genre: R | 1h 55min | AdventureDramaFantasy, Science Fiction, Thriller

Distributed by Paramount Pictures

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