It’s severely difficult to talk about films like Annihilation. Not only is it discordant and beguiling by nature, but it also is difficult to fit into a single genre. It is at once a high Sci-Fi acid trip, a perplexing character drama, and a Lovecraftian horror film creating an enigmatic amalgamation of things that refuses to be tied down to one perception of this film other than one truth we can all universally agree on: This is one of the most surreal films of the decade.
You may not have been aware Annihilation came out. Paramount really struggled to find a place for this film, failing at every turn to properly market it. Which isn’t entirely their fault as this is a virtually unmarketable film, but they still dumped it in February and even went so far as to send it straight to Netflix in every country but the United States. So for those of you who aren’t aware what movie this is, it’s that new flick with Natalie Portman in it with the trailer that plays the weird and aggressively loud electronic score. And yeah, that’s pretty much what it is. If I were to describe the plot of this film, I’d have to fight between either an extended fever dream or one long acid trip. Of course, I’ve never had a fever dream or taken acid so…I guess I’ve got nothing.
Okay, but seriously. If I were to tell you anything about this film it would be a disservice. Go in blind like me and you will be transported to an insane, abstract, erudite thrillride that will have you questioning everything, every step of the way. This film is directed by the legendary Alex Garland who exploded onto the circuit in 2013 with his debut Sci-Fi masterpiece Ex Machina. So when we all heard that he was going to be coming back in 2018 with another, bigger budget, larger scale, Sci-Fi thriller, the film community collectively lost its mind with excitement. And, I can gladly say, his follow-up met every expectation I had and then some. His creation is so meticulously crafted, it’s reminiscent of when an artist practically kills himself trying to make a single painting. It is so audacious, so inventive, it earns the title “unlike nothing you’ve seen before.” Because, really, if you’ve seen something like this before, I hope you’ve got a good therapist.
Every performance in this film fits its purpose perfectly. The five main women, Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, and Tuva Novotny each deliver an impeccably nuanced performance that you don’t quite grasp until you’ve had time to let this film stew under your veins. As for Oscar Isaac? He’s not in the movie much, but he’s got a few moments that are literally unforgettable. But really, we all have to give it up for Natalie Portman. It’s probably cliched and tired by this point, but her work here really reminds me of Amy Adams in Arrival. Everything she’s doing is miles beneath the surface, so if you’re not looking for it, you can very easily miss the subtlety she’s bringing to the table. My prediction is she’s going to be completely overlooked and won’t get the recognition she deserves for years. Oh well, maybe she and Amy can bond over coffee sometime.
I was not prepared for how terrifying this movie was going to be. But really, it is petrifying. I know a lot of people talk about movies being “scary,” and you go in expecting some blood, maybe some dark houses and freaky masks, but you have no idea. Annihilation does some things that I have never seen before that chilled me to the very bone. As for the last 15-20 minutes? Incredible. Probably the closest thing to an out of body experience one can have from the comfort of a theater seat. The script is brilliant, of course, and is one of those where there will be no shortage of debate among fans about what on earth it all means. Of course, I’ve only seen it once, and am far from an expert, but I like to think it’s about our fears and the way we all react to the inevitable. That’s all I’ve got for you guys. There’s nothing more I can say other than see it if you can. It’s brilliant and quite possibly one of the most creative things I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing.
All images are from Annihilation, a film by Paramount studios