If you are a hard-nosed realist who needs logical explanations and neat, tidy, linear plot-lines, skip the science fiction thriller Annilhilation. If, on the other hand, you are a fan of movies like Stanley Kubrick’s science fiction classic 2001: A Space Odyssey and love movies that offer optical carnivals and intriguing, if not totally satisfying, plots, then Annihilation is the movie for you.
Annihilation is directed by Alex Garland, who also directed the 2014 movie Ex Machina, a meditation on artificial intelligence. Like Ex Machina, Annihilation is a surreal piece of entertainment that gently goads its audience into contemplating our understanding of reality as we know it. Both movies leave audiences slightly haunted by the questions they raise without offering much in the way of explanation. Though Ex Machina was also a very visually sophisticated movie, Annihilation takes viewers on a vastly different journey, one that is fascinatingly psychedelic and truly breathtaking in some scenes.
The story revolves around a biologist named Lena (played by Natalie Portman), who is suddenly visited by her long-lost, extremely ill soldier husband (played by Oscar Isaac). Her husband had disappeared a year earlier on a mysterious expedition into Area X, which we find out has been engulfed in a shimmering dome following the landing of a meteor at the base of a lighthouse that sits at the epicenter of Area X. Lena volunteers, along with four other women, to explore Area X despite the fact that the previous expeditions of soldiers have all gone insane and died under suspicious circumstances. On her journey, she is accompanied by a psychologist (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh), an anthropologist (played by Tessa Thompson), a linguist (played by Tuva Novotny), and a surveyor (played by Gina Rodriguez). The women are confronted by both beauty and brutality inside the “shimmer” as they head toward the lighthouse to find clues to the soldiers’ fates. A fair warning to viewers, some scenes are gruesome and disturbing, including a scene where a woman is attacked by a bear-like creature and one where a serpent-like creature is found inside a man’s stomach.
To describe any more of the action would spoil the experience, and this movie is one that needs to be experienced in the way that one experiences a ride at an amusement park. In fact, some parts of the movie were actually reminiscent of Jurassic Park. If you are in the mood to escape to an otherworldly dimension after your mid-term exams, Annihilation could be the movie for you.