Annihilation is a 2018 science fiction horror film written and directed by Alex Garland, based on the novel of the same name by Jeff VanderMeer. The film stars Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny, and Oscar Isaac, and follows a group of military scientists who enter “The Shimmer”, a mysterious quarantined zone full of mutating landscapes and creatures. The film was released in North America by Paramount Pictures on February 23, 2018, and in other markets on March 12, 2018 by Netflix.
From the skies something flashes by and hits a lighthouse in an area in Southern California and a shimmer like dome appears surrounding it. Over the course of three years the area inside the shimmer, deemed Area X, grows and expands until it reaches almost city size. Cellular biology professor and former U.S. Army soldier Lena’s husband and Army Special Forces soldier named Kane is one of the military men sent in to investigate the inside of the shimmer as part of the 3rd group sent in – no one comes back out. A year later, after deemed to have been lost, Kane returns back home surprising Lena without much memory of what happened and suddenly become ill. Lena calls an ambulance but a government security force intercepts Lena and Kane on the way to a hospital and brings them to Area X.
Psychologist Dr. Ventress recruits Lena into the project, after being question by her as she feels that a group of scientists should follow the all military 3 expeditions. The research expedition consisting of them, physicist Josie Radeck, anthropologist Cass Sheppard, and paramedic Anya Thorensen. Lena does not reveal to her teammates, other than Ventress, that Kane is her husband. Once inside the shimmer they lose track of time and events that happened and their equipment save for supplies and ammo are useless. Inside the now swamp like environment they are attacked by a mutated crocodile which has teeth like a shark, which the manage to kill. They then find Kane & group’s base of operations inside an abandoned military center and in a memory card find a recording that shows Kane cutting open a living expedition member to reveal that something inside him is moving.
At night a mutated, bear-like creature drags Cass away and kills her; the following morning, the team see Cass’s boot. Lena investigates further alone, and she discovers the mutilated corpse of Cass, which she reveals to the others. As the team continues toward the lighthouse at the center of the shimmer, they find a settlement filled with human-shaped plants. Josie hypothesizes that the shimmer is acting on organisms the way a prism distorts and refracts light. The team members realize they are rapidly changing as well. That night when Anya discovers that Lena is Kane’s wife, she gets paranoid and restraints the other three. Anya hears what sounds like Cass screaming for help outside, and investigates. The creature that killed Cass enters the house, and the screams are coming from the creature. It kills Anya and attacks Lena before Josie shoots and kills the creature.
Ventress, who is dying of cancer, goes to the lighthouse alone while Josie, seemingly gives herself to the mutation happening and changes into a human shaped plant. A distraught Lena heads to the lighthouse where she finds a corpse, incinerated by a phosphorous grenade. A video recording footage in the camera next to him shows Kane ranting about the shimmer’s effects on him, urging someone offscreen to find Lena, and finally committing suicide and his doppelganger appears near him. Lena descends into the hole and finds Ventress, who tells her the forces at work will spread to encompass everything. Ventress disintegrates into a glowing nebulous structure that absorbs a drop of blood from Lena’s face and creates a humanoid entity that mimics Lena’s every motion and eventually transforms into an identical copy of her.
Lena manages, after a tussle, to set an active phosphorus grenade in its hands before fleeing. The creature is set ablaze by the grenade and it spreads the flames everywhere engulfing the lighthouse, and the various constructs in the area collapse and the shimmer fades away. Lena goes back and is questioned by the military while under quarantine and is reunited with the doppleganger Kane. She asks him whether he is the real Kane, to which he replies, “I don’t think so.” He asks her if she is Lena, to which she does not respond. The two embrace as their irises shimmer and shift in color.
Here is a scifi movie that is slow and methodical and yet brings enough intrigue and some terror and thoughtfulness into the plot. You are left wondering and guessing as the movie ends, which is what good scifi does. I will give it an 8 outta 10!