Annihilation ★★★★

Along with Ex Machina, Alex Garland is making some of the best and most engaging sci-fi films that many are comparing to giants in the genre such as 2001 A Space Odyssey and Solaris. I would also add Blade Runner for mood, character development, and immersive environments. 

These comparisons are apt in terms of filmmaking, style, and themes, which transcends the genre and makes Annihilation something more. Elements of adventure, drama, and horror are woven into a compelling narrative about our understanding of the physical world and what happens when it’s turned upside down. Many have already commented extensively on the themes and metaphors throughout but I’ll leave that to individual interpretation.

What really pulled me into this film was the beautiful, dreamy/nightmarish cinematography and the world within the shimmer. The bright, lush environment, which isn’t always what it seems, contrasts with the characters’ drab tactical garb and scientific objectives. It looks like a paradise but at the molecular level, it is an inescapable hell. Visually there are many of these types of contrasts that mirror the themes in the narrative.

It’s a fine piece of visual storytelling. Some of the characters are a bit underdeveloped but they serve their purpose. I could have used more of Jennifer Jason Leigh. I didn’t quite get the tangent of Natalie Portman’s affair but I’m sure there’s some symbolism I’m missing. This probably requires a second viewing to fully appreciate. Nevertheless, it’s a shame the film didn’t get the attention it deserved last year. In time, I’m confident it will be regarded as one of the top sci-fi films of the 2010s and probably beyond.