Friday, 16 March 2018

'Annihilation' Review

As Lena (Natalie Portman) mourns her husband, he mysteriously returns home but seems off and is violently ill. The two are taking to a mysterious facility where they learn about an area that is very different to our world, one that doesn't obey the current laws of nature. Lena and a group of scientists will set off to explore this new world and just what has caused it.

2015's Ex_Machina saw Alex Garland burst onto the scene in tremendous fashion. His slow burn sci-fi/thriller was a huge success and made Garland one to keep an eye on for the future. His latest film is finally here but seems to have been overshadowed by the decision on how it should be released rather than Garland's talents. Thankfully, Annihilation delivers and is yet another success from the English director.

Following in the footsteps of his previous venture, Annihilation is yet another slow burn packed with mystery and intrigue. Based on Jeff Van Der Meer's novel, Annihilation is one of the most intelligent films of the year and one that requires full attention and one that you will be constantly thinking about once it's finished. This is a great difference in sci-fi compared to most other sci-fi stories we've received in recent years and is one that shouldn't be slept on.

Annihilation really takes its time with its story, offering bits of information at a time but never allows the viewer to know exactly what is going on make what will happen next predictable. The early return of Oscar Isaac's character provides huge mystery from the start of the film which only continues throughout the rest of the runtime. Onwards we experience unique creatures, plant life and alien lifeforms whilst also taking time to tackle some deep human issues. This also brings a fair amount of darker moments, both from humans and a terrifying hybrid bear. Combined with the beautiful unique colours and visuals, there is never a dull or wasted moment on screen.

Natalie Portman leads a majority female-led cast for the most part of the film which provides solid performances all around. The film doesn't dive too deep into the lives of the characters but provides the exposition surrounding each of them which fits them perfectly into the story. Naturally, Portman is given the most attention as the star but her co-stars are equally as interesting and make sure this ensemble cast is not wasted. Portman is fantastic in her role but Tessa Thompson is perhaps the standout. Thompson continues to show her abilities as an actress and after coming off franchises like Creed and Thor, she makes her presence known in a much quieter but still fantastic way.

The last thirty minutes is where the film makes or breaks it for many people. The ending is indeed strange and requires your full attention, if your focus drifts away then you could be feeling slightly puzzled. Unlike Ex_Machina, I don't feel like the finale is entirely satisfying compared to the brilliant slow burn tempo. However, it certainly does not ruin anything, it simply just doesn't tie the film up as nicely as hoped. Perhaps it's a little too weird but it is ambiguous and really makes you think which is the job a film like this should set out to do.

Annihilation is undoubtedly an intelligent film that commands your attention and doesn't look to give you answers easily. It's a unique film that deserves to be seen, whatever way possible. Not quite as great as Garland's previous venture but still a very fine film in its own right.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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