The intricate and thought-provoking film, “Annihilation,“ centers on Lena, portrayed in a versatile manner by Oscar winner Natalie Portman (Black Swan). She is a professor, biologist, and former seven year veteran of the armed forces. While in-route to get Kane, her husband, played by Golden Globe winner Oscar Isaac (Show Me a Hero) much needed medical attention, the ambulance they are riding in is chased off the road by several SUVs. The ambulance is approached by people dressed in military garb, who grab Lena, and one of whom gives her an injection in her neck, rendering her unconscious. When she wakes up, she finds that she has been placed in quarantine by the mysterious Dr. Ventress, a psychologist who is in charge of what is known as Area X; in the role of Ventress is, Oscar nominee, Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight).
In time Lena, will learn that where she is, is only a short distance from an electromagnetic field, which has been named the ‘shimmering.’ The shimmering is a phenomenon that was first created when a meteorite stuck a lighthouse along America’s southern coastline, and it has been steadily growing for the past three years. Kane, who had returned to her, after he had been gone for over a year, had been part of an expedition, one of several, that had gone in to discover what exactly the shimmering is. He was the only one of his unit to return. In fact, he was the only person of any expedition team to come back. Only theories exist as to what the expedition teams encounter once they travel into the shimmering; due to scrambling interference, all communication with the previous teams was lost once they had traveled inside.
In an effort to discover what has made Kane so ill, so she can perhaps save her husband, Lena volunteers to be a part of the next expedition team that will venture into the shimmering. She will be joined by: Dr. Ventress; anthropologist and surveyor, Cass Sheppard (Tuva Novotny); emotionally driven, paramedic, Anya Thorensen, played by Golden Globe winner Gina Rodrigues (Jane the Virgin); and physicist, the highly intelligent, but depressed and self-harming, Josie Radek, in a role acted by BAFTA nominee Tessa Thompson (Creed). What took place once the women journeyed inside the shimmering, and what their fates were, are told via flashback. From the outset of the film, Portman’s Lena, is being interrogated by a man named Lomax (Benedict Wong), who, along with everyone else listening to Lena’s story, is wearing a bio-hazard suit. Through Lena’s memories, viewers learn that the further the team traveled into the shimmering, the more perilous danger they were placed in. For example, the team is confronted by creatures such as a bear, that has had its DNA altered beyond its normal genetic code. Furthermore, the women experience time and memory loss.
“Annihilation” was written for the screen and directed by Oscar nominee Alex Garland (Ex Machina). The film is based, in part, on the first novel of the same name, written by Jeff VanderMeer for his “Southern Reach” trilogy. The movie was released simultaneously in the US and Canada on February 23, 2018. BAFTA winner, Cinematographer, Tom Hardy’s (Boy A) vibrant visuals are a standout of the film, and in essence, serve as an another character. Additionally, amongst the numerous people that helped Garland bring his cinematic vision to life, is the well-executed work of production designer, BAFTA nominee, Mark Digby (Slumdog Millionaire). Furthermore, the, at times, eerie sounding score, composed by Geoff Barrow (Ex Machina) and Ben Salisbury (Black Mirror), synchs up well with what is transpiring on screen.
Viewers who want a clear cut explanation of the reason for the existence of the shimmering before the conclusion of the film’s 115 minute runtime will be disappointed. During the course of the film, all of the reasons behind why particular things happen are not given absolute clarity, thereby allowing viewers to speculate as to the reason behind the appearance of the mysterious electromagnetic field which, according to Dr. Ventress, if not stopped, will continue to grow until it overtakes everything. Certain viewers might be put off by the film’s slow pace, expecting more of an action packed, science-fiction based movie. While it certainly won’t be a film enjoyed by all, I found, the world Garland constructed inside the shimmering, and the overall film in general, to be intriguing and mysterious, and something which held my interest from start to finish.