Thursday, 28 March 2019

Annihilation ★★★★★

‘Annihilation’ (directed and written by Alex Garland) was described as a bit of a risk before it came out, with the premise that it would be too intellectual, too trippy, and really just too much for the audience. It was sold to Netflix who thankfully went ahead with it and I’m glad because a really interesting sci-fi moving has come from it – originally a book and now adapted for the big screen.

Lena (Natalie Portman) is a cellular biology professor with a soldier background and her husband, Kane (Oscar Isaac), has been away for around a year on a covert operation. He finally comes back as the only surviving member of his team but things quickly turn bad, and Lena finds herself being asked to enter The Shimmer, a mysterious expanding zone that scientists just can’t seem to explain, to investigate why his team were killed in there, and to find more about what it going on within. With an all-female crew of military scientists led by psychologist Dr Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh) she ventures into the unknown, determined to get the answers that will help her husband.

The whole concept of ‘Annihilation’ is fascinating, and generally I’ve found with sci-fi that combining it with another area of interest really adds to how good it is. ‘FILM’ did this really well by looking at an alien invasion from a linguistic perspective, and now ‘Annihilation’ has done a similar thing but with a biological perspective. Even without the plot behind it I found it so interesting, and once I’d witnessed The Shimmer I was completely pulled into the film.

Aside from the plot, The Shimmer also stands out because of it’s incredibly stunning graphics – so many colours, and such realism. The CGI team have really outdone themselves with this one, and it’s so pleasing to look at. The high level of CGI is also used to create a real sense of uneasiness and horror during scenes – some such scenes are horrifically gory and stayed long in my mind after I’d watched them, and others aren’t gory at all (or even scary) but are so realistic that it’s quite disturbing to witness. The film is intense, as the makers predicted, but it’s that trait that makes it so absorbing to watch.

This intensity is not only apparent in graphics – the sound is so well-done as well and complements the visual side perfectly. You find yourself feeling so tense and unsettled at times because of it, especially when added to the fact that we as an audience are kept so in the dark about things. We know there’s something out there but we’re not quite sure what, and so share those anxieties with the team. 

The lead actresses are also superb in their role and bring to us characters so developed and real that you can’t help but feel as if you are journeying with them. From the alpha Anya (Gina Rodriguez) to the reserved leader Dr Ventress, every character has something to contribute and their individual story is just as intriguing as the next. It’s refreshing to see a film so female-heavy, and these women certainly prove that gender isn’t a factor when it comes to raw acting talent.

I can understand why people were worried about the reception to the film – it is incredibly thought-provoking and ambitious, with some really surreal scenes at times. It asks us some very big questions and I don’t think the answers are what we want to hear, but it’s important to portray that within cinema as life isn’t all happy endings and humans coming out on top. Not everyone will want such a philosophical and intellectual film as ‘Annihilation’ and that’s okay, but if that is what you want then you just can’t miss out on it. 

Hannah Read

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