"Annihilation" is the latest film from writer/director Alex Garland. The film is based on the novel by Jeff VanderMeer, with Garland adapting the book for the screen. Garland proves yet again to be a powerhouse writer and director. He builds on his ability to craft a dynamic and powerful script by building on VanderMeer’s work with well developed characters in awful situations. This is Garland's second outing as director. He had an incredible directorial debut with the film "Ex Machina," and "Annihilation" only improves on his resume. Unlike "Ex Machina," "Annihilation" has larger scale but keeps the intimate nature of personalized characters.
The film follows a team of female scientists who venture into an unknown area, the Shimmer. Told as a series of flashbacks, each flashback becoming more disturbing than the last, "Annihilation" builds tension and dread. "Annihilation" has beautiful and haunting imagery that did result in a few audience members, during my screening, getting up and leaving. It's not a film for everyone, but "Annihilation" is one of the best science fiction films I have ever seen.
There isn't a weak link in the cast. Natalie Portman leads the film and is at her best. Jennifer Jason Leigh plays an expert psychologist and one of the most interesting characters in the film. Gina Rodriguez, Tuva Novotny, Tessa Thompson and Oscar Isaac also star in roles that are well defined. Each cast member is given a decent amount of character development, allowing the audience to quickly understand and connect with the characters. Overall, the cast of "Annihilation" is superb.
There are a few moments in the film that have quickly risen to the top of my list of favorite scenes. One scene in particular morphs one of my favorite things in a monstrously unexpected way. I won’t give the scene away, but if you see the film, you will not forget it. "Annihilation" expects the audience to pay attention. The film walks us through most of the underlying plot lines but leaves other information on the screen for those with a keen eye to discover.
Garland has proven to be one of the best writers working today. He has penned some of the best films in recent cinema history ("28 Days Later," "Sunshine," "Ex Machina"). "Annihilation" could easily be the peak of Garland's ability, the culmination of years of study and execution. Garland is quickly becoming one of the top directors of the new age of cinema, building tension and emotion in subtle and real ways. It is exciting to think where he will go next.
The novel, "Annihilation," is the first in a series of three books. It is unclear if Garland will adapt the next two books in the series to the screen, but if he does, we can expect him to add his personal touch to the source material.