Annihilation / Directed by Alex Garland
Annihilation is a mystifying science-fiction tale that undoubtedly leaves the audience puzzled and confused but simultaneously intrigued. Writer/director Alex Garland, best known for the captivating 2015 thriller Ex Machina, adapted Annihilation from the novel of the same name by Jeff VanderMeer, though Garland has stated that his adaptation is more like a “dream” based on the original source material rather than a faithful adaptation. The film stars Natalie Portman and is rounded out by a supporting cast that includes Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny, Benedict Wong and Oscar Isaac.
The film opens with an Earth-bound meteorite cruising through space. At the site of the meteorite’s impact - a lighthouse somewhere along the Atlantic coast - the very DNA of the landscape and environment begins to evolve. Co-opted and quarantined by the US Military, the “Shimmer,” as it is referred to, has been investigated multiple times by military expedition crews, zero of which have returned. One of those missing-in-action is the husband of a John Hopkins biologist, Lena (Natalie Portman). Upon her husband’s sudden return and his contraction of a foreign illness developed within the Shimmer, Lena is taken to the government-supervised Area X, where the Shimmer has been growing and expanding for the last three years.
Desperate to find a cure for her dying husband, Lena volunteers to join the next expedition into the heart of the Shimmer, joining a psychologist (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a physicist (Tessa Thompson), a paramedic (Gina Rodriguez) and a geologist (Tuva Notvotny), to round out the all-female squad. Unaware of what they’re walking into, the team sets off into the Shimmer, where months feel like days, navigation equipment is useless and any efforts at outside communication fail.
The Shimmer is home to hundreds of new genetically-diverse animal and plant species, some of which should be impossible, like an alligator/shark mutated crossbreed or vegetation that grows in the shape of the human body. What Lena and the team encounter as they progress further into the Shimmer tests the strength of their bodies, minds and everything they thought they knew about human existence.
Visually stunning, wonderfully acted and at times, downright mind-boggling, Annihilation offers the audience a sophisticated puzzle to solve, well aware that the solution to the puzzle will remain out of reach even after the film concludes.
-Written by Adrianna Redhair