“A Shroud of Mystery”
A Review of "Annihilation” by Nathan H. Box
Director: Alex Garland, Writers: Alex Garland, Jeff VanderMeer, Starring: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson
Rating: 4 Stars, SHOWTIME
A biologist signs up for a dangerous, secret expedition into a mysterious zone where the laws of nature don't apply.
“Annihilation” reminds me so much of the 2006 Hugh Jackman movie, “The Fountain” and the 2011 Brad Pitt/Sean Penn movie, “Tree of Life.” By remind, I don’t mean to say this film steals anything from the plot of those two films. Rather, all three films leave you truly questioning the visual splendor unfolding before you in the most fantastic way imaginable.
Without a doubt, “Annihilation” is the best science fiction movie I have seen in some time. Not since “Arrival” have I seen anything that can remotely compare. It achieves this status by building a plot that exists in a shroud of mystery. Seriously, the story is like a mystery box sitting in a dark and desolate room. On one hand, your mere human curiosity is telling you to investigate. On the other hand, your fight or flight instincts are telling you to get as far away as possible. Luckily for us, all we must do is sit back and watch the brave women on the screen do all the heavy lifting.
Our story begins when Lena’s (Natalie Portman) husband, Kane, (Oscar Isaac) returns from a secret mission. Lena and we as the audience members assume he is dead until the very second, he walks back into her life. It is here that we get our first big reveal. Lena’s husband is acting strangely, won’t answer simple questions, and soon begins showing signs of being extremely ill. Jumping into action he is rushed to the hospital with Lean by his side. Except, they never make it. Instead, they are picked up government agents and whisked off to a secret lab.
This is when we learn of Kane’s mission, The Shimmer, and the impending doom. What lies inside of The Shimmer is growing and a team is needed to investigate once again the source of the growth. The team is tasked with trying to reach a lighthouse in the far reaches of the park. Here, we learn of Lena’s military background and the extent of her biology background. Driven by a need to solve the mystery surrounding her husband, she joins the team and enters the park.
Almost instantly, we get a sense that things are not normal. We are treated to the visual spectacle of species that seem to cross breeding. Think alligators with shark teeth, deer with flowers for antlers, and trees growing in the form of humans. On the surface, the idea of a movie built on the concept of DNA, replication, and an evolutionary event may seem ridiculous, but this movie pulls it all off with expert precision.
As the film draws to the end, we discover Lena is walking in her husband’s footsteps. While I won’t spoil the ending, I must say that is like nothing I have ever seen before. The music, the visuals, and the reveal are perfectly in balance as they raise the intensity level to 110%. Where so many science fiction movies fail is in their ability to end properly (I am looking at you “Prometheus).” This film doesn’t fall victim to its predecessors. Instead, you will leave the theatre begging to find someone to discuss this film with for days and days. Seriously, it is that good and I absolutely recommend you see it as soon as possible. If you need someone to talk to about it with, I am here for you.
Be good to each other,
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