Thursday, 12 April 2018

Review: Annihilation - strong follow up by a film maker on the rise

The two sides to the long running debate about whether Netflix is a killing cinema (I have written a previous piece on this very topic which can viewed here) are never more prevalent than in Alex Garland's follow up to this masterful directorial debut Ex-Machina, Annihilation.
Based on Jeff VanderMeer's best-selling Southern Reach Trilogy, Annihilation stars Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Oscar Isaac and  and follows a group of military scientists who enter "The Shimmer", a mysterious quarantined zone full of mutating landscapes and creatures.
With a look and feel somewhat resembling Denis Villeuneve's Arrival, I can't help lamenting what this visually incredible production would have looked like on the big screen, but alas due to lukewarm screen testings with the production company Paramount claiming that the feature may be "too intellectual" for audiences it was decided to sell the movie to Netflix (a move that disappointed director Garland who claimed that the film was shot for the big screen).
The other side of this argument, would state that due to the interest of Netflix in the production that it has brought this film to a larger audience, albeit not in the format it deserves.
The film itself is a thought provoking, eerily haunting and visually stunning sci-fi horror but comes with the warning that it may not be for everyone. Similar in tone and generating an aura that resembles Jonathan Glazer's 2014 feature Under the Skin, this is a film that evokes feelings of unease and unrest yet compels it's audience ,who simply can't look away. It's frightening in parts but always interesting and while it may not have that immediate desired effect of instant gratification that most modern features have it stays with you for days afterwards.
Sci-fi fans will love it's thought provoking themes and fans of horror will revel in the unease it brings throughout and whilst it may not quite match Ex-Machina for universal appeal it is another strong addition to what is becoming a formidable directorial portfolio by Alex Garland.

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