Annihilation, written and directed by Alex Garland, had a hypnotic effect on me. I was pulled into this film and enveloped by everything it was giving to me. The experience only deepened as it went on and I became more and more consumed by the film and its questions, its main character, it’s… everything. I haven’t had an experience like it in some time. It’s difficult to explain. I may struggle to talk coherently about, Annihilation but I’m going to try. Let’s get to the review.
Lena – played by Natalie Portman – signs up for a dangerous mission where she will enter into an unknown phenomenon known as the shimmer. It is slowly expanding and consuming the landscape around it. Inside of it, the rules of nature no longer apply and everything, including the team of scientists now exploring it, are changing.
Annihilation was a film that at all times held onto my attention. At times there was a sort of calming, but alluring effect emanating from the film, as if it was inviting me to come deeper into the mysterious setting it had created. Other times though, it was almost like I didn’t have a choice. I had to give my attention over to the film – it demanded it. I willingly gave it to the film and it pulled me into what was a wholly enveloping experience.
There’s much to the film that entices you in and intrigues you. An interesting central character, a mysterious plot that has you guessing as to what is going on, imagery that disturbs you but also dazzles you. There’s a lot and I’ll be talking about all of them, but the thing that had me feeling like I was being pulled into a trance like state, as the film controlled my every attentive moment, was its atmosphere.
The alien-like sound design that caused shivers down my spine. The score that was both haunting – causing me to feel uneasy and on edge – and also alluring – making me feel like I was drifting alongside the film. The visuals that were at times stunning and other times horrifying. These all fed into creating an atmosphere that allowed the film to have complete say over where my attention was directed. The outcome was that I was completely transfixed by, Annihilation.
That then meant that the film was free to bring me along uncontested. I took in its story; I was more than happy to be a part of Lena and her fellow scientists’ journey through a place that never made sense. A place where the imagery on offer was continually evolving; sometimes for the better and other times for the worse. And it was when it was for the worse that fear took over. When you’re in a place where mother nature’s control has vanished, the things that come out of the darkness and begin to form, are truly terrifying.
Beyond the unexpectedly odd reaction the film caused me to have when watching it, Annihilation is a damn good film – a further example of how talented a writer and director, Alex Garland is. His previous film, Ex Machina was a standout favourite of mine in 2014. And his choice for his lead in the film further shows how good he is. Natalie Portman commands this film effortlessly. She has a presence on-screen that propels the film forward. She – as much as the story and the setting – keep this film together and engaging. Though her character isn’t that fleshed out, she was still someone who I found to be a worthy protagonist. She had flaws, and those flaws motivated her, but she also had great strength, and when you put all her characteristics together, you get a central character who interested me and kept me further attached to the experience of the film.
I only wish the supporting cast of characters had any hint of significant development. The way in which we learn about them and try to form an attachment to them, is perhaps the only sloppily handled element of the film. They are characters who very much take a back seat to the rest of the film. I still found myself able to care about them and worry when they were in danger, but it was nowhere near to the same extent as to how I cared about Lena. The actresses do a fine job but there sadly isn’t a lot for them to work with.
But the film beyond them and questions that fuel Lena to keep moving deeper into the shimmer, are a huge factor in why I didn’t struggle to keep my attention fully fixed on the film. Those questions largely fuelled my want to stay with Lena as she and the film descend deeper into the madness of the shimmer. When it came to answering those questions, Garland doesn’t hand over everything to you. He gives you enough to feel satisfied, but he doesn’t sit you down and simply explain everything. You are left to interpret some things for yourself, and you’re also given the opportunity to play detective one-or-two times, as he doles out little clues that feed into the larger questions.
A sci-fi story like this can be a difficult one to do in a satisfying way. Because if you present the audience with a pile of questions, they’re going to want some sort of resolution to them. The TV show, Lost, for example, failed at this and never rewarded the audience for their commitment to the show at all. Annihilation doesn’t make that mistake. Personally, I was satisfied with how the film concluded and what mysteries it left for me to think about – to ponder.
Interestingly, my biggest gripe with Annihilation isn’t with the film itself but with Paramount. You see, Annihilation only got released in cinemas in the U.S. Its worldwide release saw it only come to Netflix. I personally think that the already stellar experience of this film would have been even better on the big screen. The incredible visuals, with unforgettable imagery. The consuming sound design and score. These were things I would have really liked to have experienced in a cinema. I’m glad I chose to wear headphones when watching the film, as it certainly helped heighten the audio aspects of the film, but still, I think it’s really unfair, and poor decision-making by Paramount, to only release the film on Netflix outside of the U.S.
I think that gripe shows how much I enjoyed this film, because I wanted to experience it how it was intended to be shown. I had it readily and easily available from home on Netflix, but I would have much preferred to leave my house and go to my local cinema to see it. What better praise for a film in 2018 is there, than to suggest leaving the house to see this film would have been completely worth it and better than watching it in the comfort of home.
And so, I am of course recommending, Annihilation. This film had every bit of my mind at its disposal and I never found myself wanting to retract it. This is a film that you should absolutely experience, and one I’d love to know what kind of effect it had on you. So please make sure you make the time to see, Annihilation.
I’d love to know what you thought of, Annihilation, and my review of it. So please, leave any feedback, opinions, etc. in the comments section down below. Also, feel free to follow both my blog and my Twitter – @GavinsRamblings – that way you’ll always know when I post something new. But I’ll wrap things up now and say thank you to you for taking the time to read my writing. Have a fantastic day!