In Alex Garland's Annihilation, Natalie Portman takes the lead as Lena a biologist seeking answers as to what happened to her husband, a soldier named Kane who ventured into a mysterious alien landscape that is growing in a swamp on earth.
These two actors alone would be a major draw for science-fiction fans, since both portrayed major players in the Star Wars universe, arguably the biggest sci-fi franchise in cinema, but don't think that Annihilation is your typical film of this genre. It subverts a lot of tropes and offers a very unique take.
Natalie Portman is not just the brains in this, she is also the brawn. She is also a soldier, which is how she met her husband, and when she left the army she went back to school. She joins an all-female research team led by Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a psychologist, Josie Radek (Tessa Thompson) a physicist, Anya Thorensen (Gina Rodriguez), and a paramedic and geologist, Cass Shepard (Tuva Novotny),
This replaces the typical special forces team that usually venture towards an alien anomaly. It's even lampshaded in the story when it is pointed out that the first teams that journeyed towards the alien landscape were military, and Oscar Isaac's Kane was one of them. The atypical team allows the story to explore the same narrative in a different light. What happens to a group of intellectuals when they are picked off one by one? Portman as the alpha warrior of the group and also a scientist, brings a different gravitas to how they deal with danger.
The storyline is compelling, but most of the credit for that would have to go to Jeff VanderMeer who wrote the novel of the same name, that the film was based on. Alex Garland, who also wrote the screenplay, was able to translate it prefectly to the film medium. It keeps you at the edge of your seat, and brings the shock factor with tons of confidence. The visuals are hauntingly beautiful while being frightening at the same time. One notable scene is when Portman confronts the entity responsible for the anomaly. Trust me, the way it was shown is a sight to behold.
This is a movie not to be missed, even if you are not a science-fiction fan.
Annihilation is now available worldwide on Netlflix, it will premier in cinemas on China on April 13.