A woman sits in a sanitized room with dozens of scientists in hazmat suites surrounding the space. She is being questioned by a man about what happened on her mission and the fate of the others that went out on the expedition. Here answers are vague and incomplete leading to frustrations of the questioner. The scene shifts to Lena (Natalie Portman) in class discussing cell division with her students. A cancer cell is on the screen splitting from one to two then four. Lena comments that everything starts with one cell and builds from there.
Director Alex Garland's Annihilation is a study change or reshaping. One thing evolving to become something different or splitting ints two to duplicate. Ground zero for the event is a lighthouse near the coast. Something hit it went through a wall and impacted into the ground beneath. The result is the shimmer extending outward from the lighthouse claiming more land each day reshaping every living thing as it progresses.
Alex Garland adapts Jeff VanderMeer first southern reach trilogy book for the screen. The narrative is heavy on flashbacks and short on explanation of the events that are occurring around the team of 5 women entering The Shimmer. Lena is the biologist, Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh) the psychologist, Jose (Tessa Thompson) Physicist, Gina Rodriguez's Anya paramedic and Cass (Tuva Novotny) the scientist. The visuals a mix of work of Cinematographer Rob Hardy, Special effects, visual effects and art departments are stunning and a strong reason to see this production on the big screen. Multi coloured species of flowers grow on the same stem, flowerbeds take human form, seemingly incompatible animals crossbreed with all DNA including human become fluid.
Natalie Portman heads the cast as Lena the biologist. She is a 7-year army veteran now teaching at John Hopkins. He Husband Kane Garland muse Oscar Issac was on the prior mission into the Shimmer but came back sick and changed. Jennifer Jason Leigh is the lead psychologist at area X the staging ground just outside of the shimmer She puts the teams together that go in reckoning it was about time she joined one. She is singleminded and nonsense with a focus to keep moving to get to the lighthouse. Tessa Thompson's Physicist Jose offers the best theory on what the shimmer is doing while Gina Rodriguez draws the short straw playing the most cliched character on these types of missions.
Annihilation is a visual marvel with a plot that is vague and open-ended that makes the viewer think. The pace is measured and intense with an opening post-mission debriefing scene that does not take away from what's to follow. Several scenes will say with the viewer long after the lend credits. It's an intellectual piece that may not strike a chord with the multiplex crowed but for the imagery and the injection of sound where many would expect dialogue it's definitely worth a watch.
*** Out of 4
Annihilation | Alex Garland | U.S.A. /U.K | 2018 |123 Minutes.
Tags: Cancer, Cell Division, Biology, Prism, Refraction, Meteor, Plants, Bear, Army, Physiology, Video Camera.