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Annihilation Movie Review

Written by Ryan Holloway

Released by Netflix UK

Directed by Alex Garland 
Written by Alex Garland (Screenplay) and Jeff VanderMeer (Novel)
2018, 115 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
Streaming on Netflix now

Starring:
Natalie Portman as Lena
Jennifer Jason Leigh as Dr. Ventress
Tessa Thompson as Josie Radek
Gina Rodriguez as Anya Thorensen
Tuva Novotny as Cass Sheppard
Oscar Isaac as Kane

Annihilation Poster

Review:

When Paramount announced that Alex Garland’s much anticipated science fiction adventure was set to get its UK release on Netflix, it set a dubious tone for the film’s prospects. Why were Paramount losing faith in a project that, on paper at least, looked like another epic to rival 2016’s critically acclaimed Arrival?

It’s especially baffling since Alex Garland has more than proved himself as a film director after the hugely popular Ex-Machina, as well as with his writing credits that include Dredd, The Beach and 28 Days Later. The man can clearly tell a story.

Whether or not the move spells the beginning of the end for the big screen, especially when The Cloverfield Paradox was treated in much the same way around the same time, what must be said is Annihilation is a treat whatever the size of the screen.

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With a top cast that includes Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez, Tuva Nuvotny and Oscar Isaac the film is based, albeit loosely, on the 2014 novel by Jeff VanderMeer.

Biologist Soldier Lena (Portman) is mourning the disappearance of her military husband, Kane (Isaac) who has been missing for a year. One-night Kane returns home, he isn’t the man that Lena remembers and doesn’t remember a thing from the past 12 months. We discover that he has been on a mission in the ‘Shimmer’, a colourful domed membrane that is expanding over a swampland in Florida and classified as ‘Area X.’

Kane becomes critically ill and to find out what happened to her husband and to discover the secret of the Shimmer, Lena joins a team of soldiers led by Dr. Ventress (Leigh) and enters the mysterious zone.

The first thing you will notice about Annihilation is that it takes itself very seriously. There are no witty one-liners or tension-defusing jokes here; this film is going to draw you in with its intensity and intrigue, which it has by the planet load. It’s not to say that there aren’t great moments between characters, there are plenty, but it’s somewhat satisfying to see a film of this ilk not rely on moments that seem out of place given the seriousness of the situation they find themselves in.

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The premise is a simple one but Alex Garland adds so many beautiful layers to his protagonist’s motives and personalities that it feels anything but formulaic. His willingness to let the characters have time to breath is perhaps the reason that the film ended up on the format that it did, the film needs time, and, like the dreaded Area X, needs time to grow and pull you in until you are so involved that you’re on the edge of your couch.

Our intrepid-team is faced with all number of mind-bending goings on in the Shimmer that make them question their sanity the longer they are inside. Nothing is how it should be as they come across impossible genetic anomalies and a horrific truth that they could never have expected.

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Natalie Portman is at her best here and it’s an understated performance that perfectly balances with the rest of the cast. Leigh is always intriguing and as her motives for going on the mission become clear, you care. Really care.

Tessa Thompson also gives a restrained performance, once again proving that she really deserves to be one of Hollywood’s hottest properties right now.

With some truly beautiful cinematography and nightmarish scenes that stay with you for some time after the film ends, Annihilation builds towards a stunning climax that could prove divisive but never feels like a cop-out.

It’s a shame that Annihilation didn’t make it into UK cinemas as it would have been a sublime experience, but the film works on so many levels that it is highly effective regardless, and the beauty of it is that you can watch the ending again and again to try and unlock the mysteries of what is most definitely a sci-fi masterpiece.

Grades:

Movie: Fivestars Annihilation Small
Buy Amazon Uk

About The Author
Ryan Holloway
Staff Reviewer
As far back as he can remember Ryan has always had an obsession with films, and horror in particular. 'A Nightmare on Elm Street' and ‘Alien’ were the first films that really stuck in the psyche and rather than scarring his tiny mind and running up a huge therapy bill, those films created a fascination with the dark side of life and art. Brought up by Freddy, Jason and Michael Myers (not literally), horror will always fascinate him no matter how absurd, dark, twisted, barmy or just plain wrong. Horror DNA gives him the opportunity, and excuse, to legitimise his macabre tastes and watch whatever strangeness comes his way.
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