Coming off of his original and haunting debut film, Ex Machina, Alex Garland parlayed his newfound status and momentum into a visually rich and emotionally charged film headlined by the wonderful Natalie Portman. Annihilation is a film that aims high, shored up by an eclectic and visceral cast, but its plot is so lowkey that it is difficult to really understand or care what the film is really about.
Set inside of what is called “The Shimmer” a group of female scientists emark to discover and understand what caused this dimension that is slowly evolving everything inside of it. Portman is joined with Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tuva Novotny, and Tessa Thompson; whom all contribute a specific aspect to the research team as well as emotional plot points. Oscar Isaac reteams with Garland as Portman’s husband who escaped the shimmer but is on life support; giving Portman’s character motivation.
The film looks incredible. Absolutely incredible. The world inside The Shimmer is vibrant and bursting of colors, yet it is incredibly dangerous. Not only is The Shimmer evolving plant life, it is also doing so to the wildlife, creating these dangerous beasts who begin to slowly hunt the team. The beauty of the film is countered by a haunting score by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury.
When the film gets to the third act and we see the conflict head on, it isn’t that there isn’t any resolution, it is that what happens stops making sense; the narrative becomes purposely vague and very dense. It’s not just that the ending of the film is complex, it is just that is lacks an understanding to what it is trying to say. The lead up to the final moments are a little too dense, and the plot seems to roll into itself, yet the visuals of the film are too beautiful to look away from.
Review by Frank Mengarelli