By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
If you thought director/screenwriter Alex Garland’s
2015 “Ex-Machina” was a sci-fi mind-bender, wait until you see his follow-up movie, “Annihilation.”
It’s a trippy, invasion drama that starts out slow, but builds into a surprisingly, suspenseful and riveting movie.
“Annihilation” is based on the first book from author Jeff VanderMeer’s “Southern Reach” Trilogy. And while the movie harkens back to other sci-fi classics, most notably, “Alien” and “Predator,” overall, “Annihilation” stands out for its richness and complexity.
Natalie Portman, who was so good as the dainty and proper Jackie Kennedy in the 2016 biopic “Jackie,” gets in touch with her edgier side in “Annihilation.”
Portman plays a biology professor/scientist named Lena. She’s been broken ever since her military-officer husband Kane (a terrific Oscar Isaac, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and “Suburbicon”) went on a secret mission. He and the other officers haven’t been heard from in nearly 12 months. Lena assumes Kane is dead.
But, when Kane arrives home out of the blue, it’s immediately clear, something is terribly wrong with him. Within minutes of talking with Lena about what he remembers from the expedition, he becomes extremely sick.
Lena is hurt and angry and demands that she gets some sort of explanation as to what is happening to Kane. She finally does from Dr. Ventress, (Jennifer Jason Leigh, “The Hateful Eight” and TV’s “Twin Peaks) who is familiar with the mission.
Apparently, there’s a force, that has a lot of power and it’s known as “The Shimmer” and it’s surrounding a nearby swampland, but could easily make its way just about anywhere. It appears as a shiny, rainbow, plastic bubble wall of sorts. For reasons unknown yet, nothing that gets in the path of “The Shimmer” can escape. Almost nothing.
Somehow, Kane managed to escape, but not completely intact.
There’s no way that a biologist/scientist like Lena isn’t going to jump at the chance to find out what’s really behind this so called “Shimmer” and what it’s done to her husband.
So, when Lena learns that a group of women are on a mission to find out what the “The Shimmer” is, she’s all in and ready to roll into the danger zone. The group includes: physicist Josie (Tessa Thompson, “Creed” and TV’s “Westworld"), anthropologist Cass (Tuva Novotny, TV’s “Dag” and “Nobel”) and paramedic Anya (Gina Rodriguez, “Ferdinand” and TV’s “Jane the Virgin”).
They all prove to be pretty tough, although Lena is perhaps the toughest of all. She’s skilled at handling an automatic weapon especially when a mammoth crocodile appears and is about to make a meal out of one of the crew.
They also have to contend with a couple of other ferocious beasts.
Everything behind “The Shimmer” is odd, even the way the flowers grow in the forested areas and the weird juxtaposition of the crocodile’s teeth. There’s some metaphysical force at hand here.
The more Lena and the women explore their surroundings to find out about “The Shimmer,” the darker and more menacing things become for them.
Director Alex Garland, methodically lays out this haunting tale and includes some unpredictable jump scares along the way along with a shocking and bizarre ending.
“Annihilation” is a riveting, yet unsettling creature feature.
Be sure to catch my N2Entertainment.net movie talk segment on the Kitty O'Neal Show Fridays at 6:40 p.m. on radio station KFBK 1530 AM and 93.1 FM.
Take A Peek At This Trailer For "ANNIHILATION"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association (BFCA), the Black Reel Awards Voting Academy and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.