Natalie Portman is Lena, an ex-army molecular biologist who volunteers to enter a mysterious phenomenon called “The Shimmer” in Alex Garland’s Annihilation. This bizarre space seems to swallow all that enter it: drones, wildlife, vehicles, military incursions. One of the things it’s swallowed is Lena’s husband, and she essentially signs up to the mission to find out both what “The Shimmer” is, and what happened to him.

Now I’d read the trilogy of Jeff Vandermeer books that this movie was based on, I found them horribly frustrating; they offer literally no explanation of why anything is happening, and to be honest, I gave up half way through book 3, by that stage not caring what happened either way. The movie changes a few things and therefore is far more accessible; it hints at reasons, provides a few answers, peppers the “I don’t knows” with moments where we kind of do have a clue. And once the team venture beyond “The Shimmer” into the altered world beyond, the tension ratchets up and the disorientation becomes palpable and psychedelic, and some of the mutations effected on the world are terrifying and gross. I enjoyed it.

I also really really loved the cast; Tessa Thompson’s emotionally fragile physicist is so out of type from her rollicking role in Thor that she’s barely recognizable. Even more startling is Gina Rodriguez of Jane the Virgin fame, who’s a can-do hardcore lesbian military type. I loved that. I also love Natalie Portman so that helped.

I’d say go see it.

Martin Cuff Movie Reviews