“Annihilation,” released February 23, truly set itself apart from other films released this year. It’s unique in the sense that the events that take place over the course of the film are as unexplainable to the characters as they are to the audience. It makes the viewer feel empathy for the characters in what they go through in the movie, specifically Lena, the protagonist.
The film begins with Lena (Natalie Portman) learning that her husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) has returned from a covert Army operation that she had assumed left him killed in action. But something’s off, and Kane falls ill. Lena seeks to discover the cause of the illness by embarking on the same mission, bringing her to “The Shimmer.” She’s joined by a team of combat trained and skilled scientists, all women. What follows is a trek unlike any in a film before, and the adventure proves to be more than rough for the adventurers.
Part of what makes this movie especially unique is the story that is told within it. It’s told rather abstractly, going back and forth in the timeline throughout the movie. Much of the plot is told through the perspective of Lena attempting to explain what happened while she was inside “The Shimmer,” making it clear to the viewer that she had gotten out of the area alive when no one else had. What happened however, was something only the movie, and not Lena or anyone else, could really put into words. “The shimmer” alters the way people and everything else exist both physically and mentally.
The ending to “Annihilation” is one that will leave viewers contemplating what it is they just spent nearly two hours watching. Just when the viewer thinks they’ve figured out everything that has happened, just one minute near the end of the movie will keep the audience contemplating for days about what really happened, or what is going to happen after the credits roll. It serves as an ending that is both open to interpretation, yet extremely satisfying for the viewer.
There was not very much to dislike about “Annihilation.” One thing that stood out, though, was some of the characters’ failure to believe what was happening when they were inside “The Shimmer.” At one point, the characters were all watching a video of something very abnormal happening to a soldier. One of the characters called what was going on “a trick of the light,” and refused to believe it. This seems like an awfully poor excuse for not wanting to believe that. Also, at this point, it seems very cliché for characters to not believe something they’re seeing, as so many movies have done this time and time again. Filmmakers need to learn to occasionally allow their characters to suspend their disbelief when witnessing an unnatural phenomenon, especially while living through one.
“Annihilation” is definitely a different type of film for viewers to open themselves up to. With its non-linear way of telling its story, as well as the extremely abstract findings that the characters discover, the film offers a fresh new take on story that is intense, emotional, and thought-provoking all at the same time.