Set in the future, ‘Annihilation’ tells the story of Lena (Natalie Portman), a cellular biologist whose soldier husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) has been missing in action for a year and presumed dead.
He suddenly re-appears at her home in a state of utter confusion, not knowing how he made it there.
Lena’s obvious relief and delight on seeing him after such a long gap soon turns to horror as he starts to bleed from his mouth.
On their way to the hospital, both Lena and Kane are abducted and taken to a location that belongs to a government organization called the Southern Reach where she meets a psychologist by the name of Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh).
She learns from the doctor that her husband’s mission had taken him inside “The Shimmer” – a glistening, ever-expanding area inside a National Park located around a marshland from where no one has ever returned alive, barring Kane – the only exception, in fact.
Lena learns that some three years ago, a lighthouse within the area in question had been struck by an unidentified object, turning it into the mysterious Shimmer that had taken so many lives.
To save her very ill husband from the same fate, Lena decides to join Dr. Ventress’ expedition into the Shimmer along with surveyor Josie Radek (Tessa Thompson), anthropologist Cass Shepherd (Tuva Novotny) and former police officer Anya Thorensen (Gina Rodriguez).
Weird things start happening from the time the group enters the Shimmer.
To start with, the expedition members realize they have lost four days when they wake up inside the Shimmer, with no memory, whatsoever, of how they made it into the malevolent area.
Radek realizes, to everyone’s dismay, that extreme magnetic interference inside the area is rendering their communication devices and compasses useless.
On their way to the south, using the sun’s position to get their bearings right, the team comes across a boathouse where they notice mutated plant and animal life, with different plant species growing from the same root and crocodiles with sharks’ dental structure.
Deeper inside the Shimmer, they come across a deserted military base where they find a memory card with footage of Kane’s expedition that shows members of the group maiming each other.
The group spends the night atop a watchtower from where Sheppard, the anthropologist, is dragged away and killed by a bear-like creature.
Further south, the depleted team stumbles upon a town where weird becomes even weirder; where plants are shaped like humanoids; where Thorensen sees the skin on her hand and fingerprints crawl; and where Lena discovers that the Shimmer is taking a hold of their faculties as well, slowly but surely mutating their DNA.
The horror does not end there, as Thorensen attacks the rest of the expedition members and binds them up, accusing Ventress and Lena of killing Sheppard and hiding the fact that Kane is Lena’s husband.
The bear that killed Sheppard attacks the group and is killed by Radek, but not before it kills Thorensen.
In the night, Ventress leaves for the lighthouse.
The following morning, Radek vanishes after she covers herself in the humanoid plant leaves to avoid ending up like Thorensen and Sheppard.
Lena finds her way to the lighthouse where Ventress had headed the previous night. Inside the lighthouse, she finds a dark hole and a burned corpse and a camera that shows footage of her husband taking his own life while being recorded by his double.
Inside the hole, Lena finds Ventress who tells her that the Shimmer is an extra-terrestrial creation and would cause “Annihilation.”
Lena is transformed into a four-dimensional structure that starts to draw in blood from a cut on Lena, creating a humanoid creature in the process that reflects all her actions.
In the ensuing battle, Lena explodes a phosphorus grenade in the humanoid’s hand causing it to retract itself into the hole and the Shimmer is itself ultimately annihilated.
Watch the trailer here
Here’s how the critics have rated the film.
Rotten Tomatoes: Rotten Tomatoes has given the film an approval rating of 90% based on 89 reviews, with an average rating of 7.8/10.
“Annihilation backs up its sci-fi visual wonders and visceral genre thrills with an impressively ambitious — and surprisingly strange — exploration of challenging themes that should leave audiences pondering long after the end credits roll,” is the website’s critical consensus.
Metacritic: According Metacritic’s rating, the film has scored 81 out of 100, based on 40 critics, indicating “universal acclaim”
Chicago Sun-Times: Richard Roeper gives the film a 4 out of 4 rating. He wrote: “Kudos to Garland and the cast, but bravo to Scott Rudin as well. Apparently you knew a masterpiece when you saw it, and you made sure we were able to see it as well.”
Rolling Stone: Giving the film 3.5 out of 4 stars Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote: “Garland need make no apologies for Annihilation. It’s a bracing brainteaser with the courage of its own ambiguity. You work out the answers in your own head, in your own time, in your own dreams, where the best sci-fi puzzles leave things.”
Variety: Peter Debruge of Variety sums up his review of the film saying, “To call “Annihilation” an “adaptation” doesn’t really do either the book or the film justice. Written long before the sequels were published, Garland’s script seizes on key ideas from the novel, but spins them in exciting new directions, using his source as a kind of leaping-off point (even the opening meteor detail is a bit of a departure, albeit one with rich other-worldly implications) from which he offers five tough women a chance to make first contact with this alien presence, and perhaps save the human race in the process.”
Cast and Characters
- Natalie Portman as Lena
- Jennifer Jason Leigh as Dr. Ventress
- Gina Rodriguez as Anya Thorensen
- Tessa Thompson as Josie Radek
- Tuva Novotny as Cass Sheppard
- Oscar Isaac as Kane,
- Benedict Wong as Lomax
- Sonoya Mizuno as Katie
- Mizuno also portrays a Humanoid
- David Gyasi as Daniel