Based on Jeff VanderMeer’s first book of his critically acclaimed Southern Reach trilogy, Alex Garland’s hotly anticipated new sci-fi film Annihilation is the straight-to-Netflix production that seems set to buck the trend of the streaming channel’s recent monumental flops such as Duncan Jones’s Mute and the Will Smith vehicle Bright.
Annihilation stars Natalie Portman as a biologist, a member of an all-female scientific expedition entering a quarantine area. After the disappearance of her husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) a year earlier while on a top secret mission, Lena, played with assuredness and nuance by Portman, is shocked to see him reappear at the home they once shared together.
She agrees to join a mission to investigate the mystery, entering Area X, a quarantine zone in which an anomaly named the Shimmer is threatening to engulf everything around it.
The group soon finds itself in difficulties as they slowly discover the true nature of the anomaly and the danger it presents.
Elevated by a wonderfully hypnotic score, which is as much part of the narrative as the sparse dialogue, the film manages to be both clever and engaging without ever resorting to predictable tropes and sci-fi clichés.
There are moments of pure genius in the way it chooses to interpret VanderMeer’s more visually challenging aspects of the story.
Putting aside the revolutionary fact that the cast is mostly made up of female actors, we are left with a work of brilliance and courage from a director who continues to impress with each new project.