Netflix + Alex Garland + Natalie Portman = Cinematic Gold!
We first discovered and mentioned Annihilation to you guys late last year in a Triple R, so it was an easy choice for me to review, and I'm glad I did. Based on the award winning novel of the same name, Annihilation is a sci-fi horror, two genres that are right up my ally. Despite being hit with some controversy a few months ago, I can confirm Annihilation is a massive success for director Alex Garland, Netflix and actresses Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez and Tessa Thompson.
Annihilation tells the story of Lena (Portman), a biologist and former soldier joining a scientific mission into something called the "Shimmer" to study it. While the other four women are doing it mainly for academic reasons, to Lena it is purely personal. Her husband (played by Oscar Isaac) had recently escaped the "Shimmer" but is now dying, Lena believes the solution is in there somewhere.
Visually, Annihilation is absolutely stunning. Set for the most part within the "Shimmer", which is... I struggle to find the words to explain it without spoiling the story, I can confirm it is on Earth, but a weird and warped version. Full of rainbow tints, vibrant colours and haunting sights, this film should be seen just for the visuals alone.
The final ace in the hole is the casting, which is also where the earlier mentioned controversy lies. The reason this movie copped a bit of backlash was because fans of the book accused film-makers of whitewashing two of the central characters Lena (Asian) and Dr Ventress (Native American).
Director Alex Garland disputed the claim by saying this information came out in the following books which were released after he had already began production and would have pushed the schedule back too far to recast at that stage.
But again, casting was on point here, Natalie Portman is amazing and was the best choice for Lena. Besides some questionable acting in the Star Wars prequels, she is on the top of her game. Supporting her is Gina Rodriguez (Deepwater Horizon), Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok), Jennifer Jason Leigh (Fast Times at Ridgemont High) and Tuva Novotny (Eat Pray Love) as her fellow team mates who all did amazing jobs. In a smaller role than what we are used to, Oscar Isaac (Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi) as Lena's husband. Everyone brought something to the table and Annihilation was better for it.
Annihilation as a film is a massive coup for Alex Garland, it is only his second as director (Ex Machina was his first). But we should all know his name since he has been attached to a lot of greatness over the years. He wrote The Beach, before it was made by Hollywood with Leo and wrote the screenplays for 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks, plus my personal favourite Dredd. Annihilation has and will continue to receive some serious nods, pushing the director's stock even higher.
I just hope Netflix realises how much of a great film this is and green lights the sequels and make the full series, It would be a visual joy to experience.