Sunday 18 March 2018

Film Review: Annihilation

Ex Machina's Alex Garland continues to explore intelligent science-fiction in his newest film, Annihilation.

After a disappointing stint at the box office in America, Alex Garland's Annihilation was quietly squeaked onto Netflix here in Australia. Paramount, who chose not to distribute the film outside the US, were afraid audiences wouldn't gel with Garland's avant-garde and gooey sci-fi sensibilities, which having now seen the film seems entirely understandable – Annihilation is, for want of some better words, very 'out there' and experimental, and definitely the kind of wacky independent film audiences would be split over (see also: mother!).

The film centres around a team of five scientists – played by Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez and Tuva Novotny – who are tasked with venturing into The Shimmer, a mysterious bubble-like anomaly which is gradually growing in size, engulfing everything around it. Inside The Shimmer, the science team discover all manner of mutated and monstrous things, which only grow in strangeness as they venture closer to its nexus.

I don't think I've seen a film as adept at fostering unease and uncertainty as effectively as Annihilation in a long time; the nightmarish landscape and creatures the team stumble across as they journey deeper into The Shimmer are a potent concoction of genuinely horrifying, inventive and hauntingly beautiful. From skeletal alligators with shark teeth to plants that grow to form striking humanoid structures, there is plenty of stuff here to set you on edge.

The plot continually keeps you guessing and curious to learn more, and without giving too much away, everything ties together in a suitably poignant and strange manner. That said, I did feel like the first half of the film is stronger than the second.

Portman is an effective lead and shares some very touching and emotional moments with Oscar Isaac, who plays her husband. Thompson and Jason Leigh are standouts also.

Seeing as Annihilation is such a visual experience, it's therefore a huge shame that the only format in which it is available to Australian audiences is Netflix. Without wanting to sound like a complete snob, Annihilation is the kind of film that deserves to be seen in a large format and in a darkened theatre; and whilst it's compelling enough in a narrative sense to forgive some of this, I can't help but be a little disappointed.

That however is a mere sidenote and is hardly the fault of the filmmakers themselves, you have put together one of the best and most visceral sci-fi films in recent years – it's up there with the likes of Arrival, Snowpiercer and Looper.

The Verdict: 8/10

Indelible imagery and stomach-churning gooeyness complement Garland's hard sci-fi sensibilities, and a cast of great actors playing interesting characters make Annihilation an arresting and ethereal experience.

Annihilation is streaming on Netflix now.


  1. I live in Italy so I saw it on Netflix too. And god if it makes me angry! This is the kind of movie you should watch in the cinema not at home.

    I kinda saw the twists coming, especially the final one, but the story was still engaging and very enjoyable. Portman is a very good lead and the visuals in this film are unbelievable!

    1. Yeah the twist at the end was so easy to see coming – maybe I've just seen too many of these films ;)

  2. I'm glad I got to see this on the big screen, the sound alone is worth it. I hate that those outside of North American didn't get that option :(

    I'm glad you liked the film though!

    1. Yeah it sucks, but seeing as it didn't do so well theatrically in the US I can see why Paramount ditched it. Still, global audiences kind of drew the short straw on that one.



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