One of the best films of 2018, Alex Garland’s cunning sci-fi masterpiece Annihilation is unlike anything else you’ll ever see. Taking things to an even greater level than Garland did in his equally stellar debut film (Ex Machina), Annihilation is extremely warped—to the point where many can’t handle it. But if you’re fine with a few terrifying scenes, some very heady science (branching into extreme biology & astrobiology), unconventional cinematography, and a well-paced cinematic feel that I can only describe as “quasi-horror indie sci-fi action,” you’ll love this film. Plus, technical flairs aside, you can’t go wrong with an acclaimed film starring Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac, and Tessa Thompson. And though the film’s opening 90 minutes aren’t quite as magical as the last 30, it’s all worth it.
As for the screenplay, the first sequence that comes to mind is an extremely bold one spanning from the lighthouse scenes onward. I’ll discuss it later. But speaking of this “shimmer” (the nexus of the plot): It is an area of a U.S. state park that, after being struck by a strange meteorite, begins to transform all life within it. This spans from extreme biological changes in plants to the changing of the actual DNA of animals in the zone). And it won’t stop growing. And none of the military personnel deployed into the zone have made it back alive anyway. So the zone poses a highly classified yet major existential threat to the entire planet—as well as a galvanizing force in terms of motivating characters to risk their lives. The focus of the story, then, becomes an all-female team of civilian scientists who enter the zone for answers and—in one way or another—some redemption.
Needless to say, this isn’t just another sci-film that unfolds in a generic manner. For although the directing and acting are already sharp, the technical aspects really set Annihilation apart from the sci-fi stereotype. Moreover, its delivery is compounded exponentially by the astonishing final sequence of events. It serves a few twists that not only wrap up the story well but also stay in your head for a while, thereby sequestering your mind to a state of curious befuddlement as to what you just saw. Warning: I’m linking a clip that unfolds near the end for those of you who aren’t sold yet. It could’ve been cheesy, but—due to some of the most scintillating visual effects ever and mercurial sound effects—it will make your jaw drop. It’s also an apt microcosm for the film’s overall panorama of visual, scientific, and intellectual art.
One of the coolest sequences I have ever seen.