Director: Alex Garland
Cast: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez
Release Date: May 29, 2018
A Review By: Kevin Lovell
Film Rating: 8.5/10
Disc Rating: 8.5/10
Biologist and former soldier Lena (Academy Award® winner* Natalie Portman) is shocked when her missing husband (Oscar Isaac) comes home near death from a top-secret mission into The Shimmer, a mysterious quarantine zone no one has ever returned from. Now, Lena and her elite team must enter a beautiful, deadly world of mutated landscapes and creatures, to discover how to stop the growing phenomenon that threatens all life on Earth. The film also stars Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, and Tuva Novotny.
‘Annihilation’ accompanies biologist and former soldier Lena (Portman) who after her husband’s surprise return home from a secret mission at the brink of death, decides to accompany a new team of all-female scientists into the mysterious phenomenon referred to as The Shimmer. After entering the same mysterious destination from which her husband was the sole member of his team to return, Lena and her teammates soon find themselves being plagued by various threats including mutated forms of animal life, quickly realizing there’s a good chance their fate might not be so different than that of the previous teams. Now Lena must fight against the forces trying to slow them down and try to push through this uncompromising and mutated form of the world she knows if she hopes to find a way to save her husband before it’s too late and actually make it out of The Shimmer.
Directed by visionary filmmaker Alex Garland (Ex-Machina) from a screenplay he additionally wrote which was based upon the novel by Jeff VanderMeer respectively, Garland does a magnificent job at the helm of ‘Annihilation’ guiding this gorgeous and curious sci-fi adventure along with style. The film also owes its fair share of credit to the talented individuals that comprise the cast which includes Natalie Portman (Black Swan), Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight), Gina Rodriguez (TV’s Jane The Virgin), Tessa Thompson (TV’s Westworld), Tuva Novotny (Borg vs McEnroe) and Oscar Isaac (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) along with more, nearly all providing highly competent performances in each of their respective roles and therefore helping to allow this remarkably human story to work quite so well.
‘Annihilation’ is a unique, visually stunning and incredibly human film that takes viewers on an unexpected adventure brimming with mystery, wonder and beauty around every turn. Never hesitating to delve into the unexpected or go the opposite direction as the viewer might expect at any given moment, it almost evolves from one film into another entirely different movie as it progresses along its course, constantly keeping the viewer in a state of uncertainty. ‘Annihilation’ is passionately guided along its stunning and unexpected course by director Alex Garland which also marks his sophomore directorial effort, and his capable guidance is only further complimented by a truly gorgeous score and a well selected cast led by Natalie Portman that doesn’t disappoint. The strange approach and at least partially unexplained occurrences within are sure to make this a film that many probably won’t overly enjoy, yet I would definitely urge fans of unique and complex sci-fi films that don’t always have all the answers to make a point of giving ‘Annihilation’ a whirl whenever you find the chance. It’s a relatively impressive, moving and visually stunning science fiction tale that many fans of somewhat similar movies are likely to thoroughly appreciate.
Overall, ‘Annihilation’ is a beautiful, moving and unique science fiction drama that takes viewers for a curious and somewhat unsettling journey into the unknown. Featuring a well selected cast (almost entirely comprised of women) led by Natalie Portman and a tantalizing score that perfectly accentuates the shifts and turns within the story, it all comes together into a pretty magnificent and often unexpected film that’s also a bold and noteworthy sophomore directorial effort from the incredibly talented Alex Garland. It certainly won’t be for everyone, but I would definitely recommend ‘Annihilation’ to fans of filmmaker Alex Garland along with anyone that is likely to appreciate a mysterious, dark and just beautifully odd science fiction film that probably won’t end up being quite what you expect; for those individuals it’s likely to at the very least prove worthy your time and the cost of a rental.
The Blu-ray release of ‘Annihilation’ features a full 1080p High Definition presentation utilizing the film’s original 2.39:1 Cinemascope Aspect Ratio. The video presentation looks outstanding as a whole and provides a sharp, detailed and clean presentation from start to finish that suffers no noticeable faults along the way. It holds up impressively even during the darkly lit sequences, never causing anything occurring on screen to become negatively affected, let alone rendered indiscernible. Overall, this is a magnificent high definition video presentation from Paramount that’s further complimented by a more than adequate bitrate and shouldn’t disappoint in the slightest.
The Blu-ray release features a Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 channel compatible) soundtrack. Please note that this review pertains solely to the Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio presentation. This multichannel soundtrack serves up a crisp, clean and frequently aggressive audio presentation throughout. It regularly takes advantage of all seven available channels in order to send the remarkable score, along with random nature effects, bits of dialogue and more throughout the various speakers whenever fitting, and never conflicting with any dialogue or other audio elements that might be occurring simultaneously. Overall, this is a fantastic Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 compatible) soundtrack that holds up perfectly from start to finish and contributes nicely to the overall viewing experience.
The Blu-ray release of ‘Annihilation’ includes some noteworthy extras in the way of Behind the Scenes Featurettes that take you deeper into bringing the film to life, and including behind the scenes footage, interviews/comments with the cast and crew, plus more. The included Featurettes are broken down into three Parts, each consisting of two Featurettes within. ‘Part One – Southern Reach’ includes ‘Refractions’ (running approximately 11 minutes in length) and ‘For Those That Follow’ (running approximately 15 minutes) and ‘Part Two – Area X’ features ‘Shimmer’ (approximately 12 minutes) and ‘Vanished Into Havoc (15 minutes), with ‘Part Three – To The Lighthouse’ including ‘Unfathomable Mind’ (approximately 12 minutes) and ‘The Last Phase’ (8 minutes).