Tony's Take

ANNIHILATION review

Fear What’s Inside

Alex Garland’s second directorial effort, “Annihilation”, comes-off the immensely successful “Ex Machina”; which took the World by storm back in 2014.  The film opens as our main character, Lena (Natalie Portman), is being-questioned by a scientist in full protective gear named Lomax (Benedict Wong).  Left with many questions, we flashback to Lena working as a biologist and college professor.  As we quickly discover, she has not seen her husband, Kane (Oscar Isaac) in over a year and is working to move-on as she expects him to have been KIA.   Unsuspectingly, her husband arrives home but his clearly shaken and sick; as he starts bleeding from his mouth.  While being transported by an ambulance, Government vehicles swarm the ambulance and hijack Kane and Lena.  Lena awakens in an unknown location, being questioned by a psychologist named Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh).  Left with nothing but unanswered questions, Lena was about to be left with even more; as she learns about The Shimmer.

The Shimmer has been active for over 4 years now, with still no answers.  A multi-colored coating that began at the lighthouse near the ocean that is slowly expanding; showing no signs of slowing until it covers the globe.  Crews and objects go-into The Shimmer, but not one single thing has come back.  That is, until Kane.  With the hopes to understand The Shimmer, another expedition is about to take part.  With the hopes of saving her husband, Lena volunteers to join Dr. Ventress.  Alongside them, Anya Thorensen (Gina Rodriguez), Cass Sheppard (Tuva Novotny), and Josie Radek (Tessa Thompson) venture-into The Shimmer.  They awaken, confused and disoriented, and quickly realize that more time has passed than they realize; as they encounter spectacular, impossible creations.  The rest of the film follows their mission though the unknown as they attempt to find answers.

“Annihilation”, adapted from the novel of the same name by Jeff VanderMeer, has given us an incredibly-beautiful and visceral World to enjoy and devour.  Mysterious, ominous, and radiant, The Shimmer is one of those rare creations that are as visually-stunning as they are interesting.  Garland, as we should expect after “Ex Machina”, delivers a thought-provoking and intellectually-arresting venture that is rarely seen in today’s cinema.  “Annihilation” is accompanied-by a beautiful score, composed by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury.  There work is never more appreciated than during a long-take scene that is fueled only by sound; the harmony of synths truly take your breath away.  Garland paints a stunning masterpiece and the visuals are truly astounding.  Also, the film features a few of the most thrilling and spectacularly-gruesome scenes that I’ve ever seen.  True, genius imagination at work.  The only area where “Annihilation” struggles is with its’ pacing, as the film does occasionally drag but not without great payoff during its 115 minute running time.  On a side note, it’s important to note that studio representatives attempted to alter garland’s vision of the film, but his resounding resiliency to keep his vision (and the support of producer Scott Rudin), he gave us HIS version of “Annihilation”.

“Annihilation”, the first of a three-book series, follows a journey into the mysterious unknown called The Shimmer.  As entertaining as it is intellectually-demanding, this film is sure to stick with you long after you leave the theater.  It’s one of the very best science-fiction films in a long time; if you are heading to the movies this weekend, go see “Annihilation”! Though he has done script work for years, Alex Garland is now 2-for-2 in his directorial efforts and I cannot wait to see what he does next!  

 4.5/5

ANNIHILATION is rated R for violence, bloody images, language and some sexuality, in theaters FEBRUARY 23RD!

 

 

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