With Annihilation, Alex Garland proves yet again that he is a master storyteller, blending thought-provoking sci-fi with horror to create a modern classic.
The film follows Lena, who, after her husband, Kane, comes back very ill after being nowhere to be found for over a year, she joins a group of military scientists on a mission to enter the mysterious “Shimmer”, a mysterious quarantined zone which was the same place Kane found himself all this time.
After making the extraordinary ‘Ex Machina’ back in 2015, Garland had the tough task of following-up his directorial debut with something as good. While it’s hard to say whether this is a better film, since they’re so different in their approach, I think it certainly matches it.
Right off the bat, Garland’s incredible knack for visuals is very noticeable, and even more surprising considering it’s only his second film. The whole movie is filled with breathtaking sequences, executed beautifully. The script, also written by him, is also masterful in its execution, filled with incredible dialogue that is made even better when delivered by the incredible cast on display.
Natalie Portman portrays a very layered character, one who could even come off as unlikable in some parts, but thanks to her amazing performance, it always works. Jennifer Jason Leigh is also great in a character that seems very hard to pull-off, but she does. Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson and Oscar Isaac are also all great even in their small roles, having shining moments sprinkled throughout the film.
The music, by Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow is incredible, setting the chilling ambience that is felt in every sequence. That’s especially surprising when taking into consideration their small resume.
It’s not all perfect, though. The climax, while great in its ideas, feels very rushed, especially considering all the build-up before. Although the ending is great and can be analyzed endlessly, some people might feel it just creates more questions than answers. While I loved it, I do have to agree partly: it doesn’t feel very earned, and, as I mentioned before, had Garland laid some more groundwork, it would’ve worked much better.
In conclusion, I do believe this cements Alex Garland as a great new talent in cinema, and his handling of sci-fi in this movie reminded me of some of the best work of Christopher Nolan, mixed with some John Carpenter scares. The ending, while I had some problems with it, is certainly staying on my mind for quite a while, and while I’m not so sure with my analysis of it, I can understand what he was trying to get across. Don’t miss it.
‘Annihilation’ is currently in theatres in the US and on Netflix internationally.