Ben Oliver

Banner image for Annihilation


It’s not destroying. It’s making something new.
27 August 2018

A group of scientists go into a cordoned off zone on the US coast that has been showing signs of mysterious activity. Previous teams going in have not returned, including the husband of one of the scientists (Natalie Portman).

Taking a step into the unknown is a common theme in sci-fi but it’s been quite some time since anyone managed to avoid resorting to cheap scare-tactics and cliche characters. Annihilation is a rare beast that borrows from the quiet tone and pace of Alien yet makes no attempt to be Alien.

Annihilation is for the most part an attractive film, with the set design playing a central role in its effectiveness. With a $40-55m budget, it’s punching quite far above its weight.

Garland strikes gold as his characters enter ‘the shimmer’ - named after the oil-slick rainbow colours hanging in the air around the zone of activity. On the surface it’s a tense, disturbing journey into a world where nothing is as it seems, and at this level it works wonderfully. Scratch beneath the surface and Garland’s screenplay touches on themes of grief, illness and even probes the nature of life itself.

The cast are stellar, the set and sound design are on point and the story holds back just enough to keep the audience wondering without frustrating them.

More like this please, Netflix.