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This 2018 scifi horror movie based on Jeff VanderMeer’s best-selling Southern Reach Trilogy baffles, terrifies, provokes, and leaves the viewer uneasy and disoriented.
When her husband vanishes during a secret mission, biologist Lena joins an expedition into a mysterious region sealed off by the U.S. government.
Annihilation Movie Review: This 2018 scifi horror movie based on Jeff VanderMeer’s best-selling Southern Reach Trilogy baffles, terrifies, provokes, and leaves the viewer uneasy and disoriented.
I’ve watched many movies on Netflix these past weeks and I always plan to write a review about each, but adulting and writing my WIP makes it hard for me. However, Annihilation is too different, too mind-boggling, and too awesome to pass up. It’s a film that deserves to be praised and honored for its many merits. This 2018 scifi horror movie based on Jeff VanderMeer’s best-selling Southern Reach Trilogy baffles, terrifies, provokes, and leaves the viewer uneasy and disoriented. For one, it has an impressive cast. Natalie Portman as Lena, around whom most of the story revolves, plays an ex-military turned academic/biologist who volunteers to go with an all-women team inside the Shimmer, a phenomenon thought to have been caused by a meteor striking a specific lighthouse and expanding its scope around it, thus getting the place its name Area X. Portman is joined by equally talented Jennifer Jason Leigh (I didn’t recognize her, she looks so different from what I remember her to be), Gina Rodriguez (just watched her in Someone Great, another Nteflix film), and Tessa Thompson (Thor’s Valkyrie). These women, broken and messed up in their own ways, ventured into the unknown Shimmer with different selfish intentions, finding themselves into contact with a shocking, disturbing environment–a world within our world, entirely different, strange, terrifying and beautiful at the same time.
Portman, as usual, delivers an emotional performance with a badass attitude. She cries silently, inwardly, but she shoots non-stop, relentlessly with her M4A1 rifle. We empathize with her at first, thinking her to be a workaholic widow longing for her lost husband. Her flawed character was slowly unraveled throughout the film, and we are tossed between hate and pity, and then realisation of her real intentions and feelings. It wasn’t out of love which made her go into the Shimmer for a suicide mission. It was guilt. The other women performed equally well, not outshining but complementing each other’s characters who were all conflicted, terrified, and disconcerted. Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tessa Thompson, particularly, played out their parts superbly to the end. Both went to their deaths (or is it death, really?) consciously, welcoming it with open arms.But sans the mystery and horror behind the Shimmer (there are weird, gross, mutating plants and animals in duplicate forms), what is Annihilation all about? According to the director, Alex Garland, who also directed the critically-acclaimed movie on artificial intelligence, Ex Machina, Annihilation is really about self-destruction. This theme is echoed by Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character, Dr. Ventress, when she said:
“You’re confusing suicide with self-destruction. Almost none of us commit suicide, and almost all of us self-destruct. In some way, in some part of our lives. We drink, or we smoke, we destabilize the good job… and a happy marriage.
Isn’t the self-destruction coded into us? Programmed into each cell?”
I think the movie is telling us that as humans, we self-destruct to destroy what’s good in ourselves and in our lives. It’s telling us that it is in our nature as human beings.
But the entity in Annihilation (obviously an alien being from another planet) destroys to create something new, something better. Better than our former self. In effect, it was doing humanity a favor.
Maybe that was why, in the end, Portman’s character didn’t kill her husband’s doppleganger. I think she saw a chance for a clean slate, where her cheating won’t be remembered, she gets a second chance in proving her love for her husband, and their marriage would be saved.
That is, if she is the real Lena. Because maybe, just maybe… she isn’t.
“It’s not like us… it’s unlike us. I don’t know what it wants, or if it wants, but it’ll grow until it encompasses everything. Our bodies and our minds will be fragmented into their smallest parts until not one part remains… Annihilation.”
Thrilling, visually stunning special effects, excellent musical scoring, outstanding actor performances and masterful direction, Annihilation is a film that will challenge your mind and will stay with you long after you’ve finished watching it.
Now streaming on Netflix. Highly recommended!
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
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