Tessa Thompson in Annihilation (2018)
Annihilation (2018)
Stories & Ideas

Fri 02 Oct 2020

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Summer Gooding

Experience & Engagement Coordinator, ACMI

Revisit this compelling and cerebral sci-fi horror.

With its crisp cinematography and cast that includes the incredible Gina Rodriguez and Tessa Thompson, Alex Garland’s Annihilation (2018) is a is a beautifully made, compelling film that will draw in even the least sci-fi oriented viewer.

Lena (Natalie Portman) is grieving her husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) when he mysteriously returns from a yearlong absence. As she searches for answers, Lena finds herself recruited to a mission to learn the truth of Kane’s disappearance. What she discovers is a secret government investigation into a supernatural phenomenon called “The Shimmer” – a strange dome-like zone that has appeared in the American wilderness, and which grows by the day. No one knows what lies inside the shimmering orb and until Kane no one had ever returned from a mission to find out.  

While I usually veer towards horror or drama, I was gently persuaded into watching this Natalie Portman epic and boy am I glad I caved. Annihilation waits for no man, literally. Not only does its meaty plot kick off almost immediately, it’s also not centred solely around male characters – a refreshing and welcome change for the genre. The film makes only slight reference to this, in a scene when Lena surveys her team and notes that they’re “all women” to which Cass (Tuva Novotny) corrects her by stating that they’re simply “scientists”. But Annihilation doesn’t linger on its majority female cast. As Josh Spiegel of The Hollywood Reporter writes, “There is … no attempt in Annihilation to metaphorically nudge the audience to remember how this story is female-driven; it just is female-driven”. Here are five kick ass women trying to save the world – what of it?

Without giving away its white-hot ending, Annihilation intrigues and surprises. It has sparked numerous articles and forum threads that try to nail down its meaning as viewers grapple with philosophical ideas about humanity, mirrors, and alien infiltration. Out of context, that sounds a bit wild. So, settle in and lose yourself in this exquisitely made sci-fi film – you’ll be left unsettled but intellectually energised for days to come.  

– Summer Gooding, Experience & Engagement Coordinator

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