Monday, February 26, 2018

Movie Review: Annihilation

The science fiction thriller from Alex Garland and adapted from the novel by Jeff VanderMeer is a gorgeous cinematic experience with an exciting plot. Lena (Natalie Portman) is an army veteran and biologist whose husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) has been missing for a year after he left on a mysterious military mission. When he reappears at their house, he is different. His body starts to break down but on their way to the hospital, the ambulance is stopped by government vehicles and Lena is drugged. She wakes up in a prison cell with the psychologist Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh) watching her. Ventress explains the situation to her and why her husband is acting strangely. She also shows her the odd phenomenon that they are calling the Shimmer. 

With Kane on a ventilator to survive, Ventress allows Lena to stay at Area X, the compound just outside the Shimmer. She meets the crew that is going in next comprised of a geologist Cass Sheppard (Tuva Novotny), a paramedic Anya Thorensen (Gina Rodriguez), and a physicist Josie Radek (Tessa Thompson). Lena begs Ventress to let her come along and the psychologist agrees. The group enters into the Shimmer with the knowledge that no one has come back before. They wake up three days later with no knowledge of what happened after they entered. Once they orient themselves with the sun and their watches, they head towards the lighthouse, the center of the alien impact and the spread of the Shimmer. The flowers grow oddly crossing species. Upon exploring an abandoned house, an alligator attacks Josie and the group until Lena shoots it. They discover that the gator has the same teeth as a shark though Lena is skeptical that this could happen.

They continue on row boats through the swamp as Cass reveals that each of them has a troubling reason for entering the Shimmer on this suicide mission. They discover a military base and decide to camp there for the night. Inside they find the former base of the previous crew including Kane and a videotape. They watch the disturbing footage of Kane cutting open another soldier whose insides are moving. That same soldier is seen growing at the bottom of a nearby pool. Josie wants to leave but Ventress insists they stay. That night, a monstrous bear attacks Shepherd and drags her off as she screams. Josie and Anya want to turn back but Ventress insists that they must move forward to the lighthouse. They continue on to a small neighborhood that was evacuated. Anya is disturbed by her skin moving and decides to tie up everyone especially when she finds out that Lena was married to Kane. They bear attacks and moans with the same voice as Shepherd attacking and killing Anya before Josie shoots it. 

Josie decides that she does not want to die angry or afraid so as she starts to mutant into a plant, she wanders off disappearing from the others. Ventress continues on ahead to the lighthouse and Lena follows finding strange structure at the beach. She enters the lighthouse where she finds footage of Kane immolates himself as he talks to a clone. Disturbs by the revelation, Lena crawls into a hole where she finds Ventress mutating into a strange light and then a creature that pursues her even as she shoots it. The creature nearly kills her as it mimics her until she lets off a phosphorous grenade in the things hand. She runs out as the lighthouse burns and the trees around also burst into flames. The interrogation of Lena that played out during the movie does not reveal much and she confronts the doppelganger of Kane who admits he's not her husband but they hug anyways as lights in their eyes glow.

Annihilation was a great book and an entertaining movie with an awesome mixture of sci-fi, adventure, and horror. The book was very intellectual and the film mimics that approach to the best of its cinematic ability. Alex Garland does a brilliant job setting up beautiful images that capture the strange alien mutation caused by refraction or something. Natalie Portman does a great job as the lead while a strong supporting cast from Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny, and Jennifer Jason Leigh make all the acting an added bonus to the stunning special effects. I did not think this book would be an easy adaptation but this movie does it justice and wraps up a story that would be awesome to see continued though unlikely after a rough first weekend at the box office. 

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