Sisterhood on the set of sci-fi film 'Annihilation'

Natalie Portman in Annihilation

In Lena's case, we know she definitely isn't the same: it's revealed midway through the film (if you look closely) that the Lena who comes out of Area X now has the same tattoo on her forearm as her dead teammate Anya (Gina Rodriguez), suggesting the Shimmer has mixed elements of the women together into this new version of Lena.

Instead, Kane is shell-shocked, incapable of explaining where he has been or what happened to him; his vocabulary has basically been reduced to "I don't know".

Soon after their arrival Lena decides to enter this incredibly unsafe area alongside Dr Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Anya (Gina Rodriguez), Cass (Tuva Novotny), and Josie (Tessa Thompson) to look for a cure. Annihilation is a film of stunning visuals and rumbling audio, complementing a brainy and psychologically unsettling story; it deserves to be seen on a big screen in Dolby surround sound with the full attention of the viewer, rather than as Bright-level background noise while folding laundry and checking Instagram. I can only assume so much in a story before questioning it.

Oscar Isaac plays Kane, the husband of Natalie Portman's character.

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Sitting side by side on a couch with their legs curled up, the camaraderie came flooding back in waves of laughter and mutual admiration. The movie is simply her expedition and the realizations she makes as she ventures further and further into Area X, behind a phenomenon they've named "The Shimmer". That aspect of the film is clearly in a fight with all the "why did you come here" Syd Field motivational padding between its troubling setpieces, and it's a very studio-suit move to assume that the only way to give "meaning" to a film is to have people talk about it. "They cut all my hair off and I was like, 'Who am I?' And then Alex was like, 'Let's go on a journey of wondering who we are!' Oh, man, it was insane". You can thank me later...

The material was physically and mentally demanding, and Garland's decision to film chronologically meant that the longer production went on, the more exhausting it became.

That said, the actors aren't given much to work with emotionally. I find his writing upsetting in a way that I really like, because it's nothing I can pinpoint exactly. When Lena hugs Kane and asks if they are both still themselves, Kane answers, "I don't think so". He communicates dread in a way that feels effortless on his part. So why do they mess up that great job they have or that relationship? Area X is lethal and freaky, but nary a death, save possibly for one, approach a satisfying objective. Then again, there are places where it appears that Area X will also happily turn you inside out literally. Following this highly successful directorial debut with the incredibly clever Ex Machine, the director has been working on Annihilation which is coming out soon on Netflix and rumoured to be equally as mind-blowing as Ex Machina was. Alex Garland gets it, though, and he's created something here - a bear that screams in the human voices of the people it has eaten - that I immediately added to my own personal nightmare catalog.

That name popped up again from The Daily Beast's Nick Schager, who wrote, "A journey into an alien heart of darkness, Annihilation feels like it's been fashioned from gene-splicing Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now with John Carpenter's The Thing (especially in a pool-set scene of blooming monstrousness) and, also, Stanley Kubrick's 2001, the latter's spiritual influence coming to the fore during a finale of such prolonged, mesmerizing surrealism that it made my eyes burn-mainly because I didn't want to blink, lest I miss a moment of its insanity". It as if she's trying way too hard to fit into the tone Garland is establishing, giving an nearly lifeless effort until a couple of key late scenes, where she's better if not great. I think it's harrowing and lovely and oddly emotional, but I also get it if someone doesn't get the same thing out of that final act. There's really no easy way to make this into another type of film, and while Paramount may have wanted another Arrival, that's not what they got. The film as a whole didn't seem to have much of a point of view. It's a process that's constantly in flux, making DNA a sort of shifting sand, as represented in various moments like characters claiming their fingerprints are moving, or seeing that one soldier's inner organs writhing like snakes. Check. I went in prepared to love it. In a flawless world, a push would be made in Best Picture, Best Director (for Garland), Best Actress (for Portman), Best Adapted Screenplay (for Garland as well), Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Original Score, and Best Visual Effects.

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