Science fiction movie represents female medical professionals, displays intricate cinematic effects

Annihilation follows soldier scientist Lena (pictured above)--played by Natalie Portman--and a group of female scientists as they venture into the Shimmer, an unknown and dangerous presence with no possible outside communication from the inside. The films stands out for its spectacular cinematography and performances from the all-female cast. (Emhan Rahman/Creative Commons)

Following the success of his film Ex Machina, writer and director Alex Garland has once again achieved a visually stunning and thought-provoking feat with his latest release, Annihilation.

Annihilation tells the story of a group of scientists as they investigate the source of a mysterious presence called the Shimmer. The Shimmer is essentially a large area engulfed in a translucent force field where no radio communication is possible, and no one has entered and returned alive. 

As they delve deeper into the Shimmer, these scientists, including former soldier turned biologist Lena—played by Natalie Portman—are not only forced to fight for their survival, but also for their sanity. 

The film’s cinematography is impeccable, and every shot, from slow pans of the Shimmer to claustrophobic close ups during tense confrontations, make a lasting impact on each scene. The practical and computer-generated imagery effects are excellent, making the Shimmer not only look incredible, but also depict a setting truly unique from other places presented in science fiction films.

Additionally, the film explores many philosophical and biological questions, giving it an incredible amount of depth. The script, together with vivid, often near-psychedelic visuals and the way the film presents these concepts allows for mind-blowing scenes that leave a lot for the audience to take in and consider. 

Along with these more complicated themes, Annihilation is also an unbelievably horrifying film. This movie features scenes with very grotesque visuals and gory moments that manage to be just disturbing enough to send shivers down audience members’ spines, without seeming needlessly graphic for shock value. 

Furthermore, the film utilizes psychological horror instead of classic gore to create truly intense scenes that are put together via the synergy between the script, actors and cinematography. 

The film is also carried by excellent performances by the actors on an individual level and together. Although not all characters are equally developed, the script and the actors give the characters each enough depth to make the audience care about each character’s fate. 

It’s also worth noting the significance of the all-female cast. The fact that the entire team is made up of females who are professionals in medical or academic fields, roles often dominated by men in science fiction, makes this film an achievement for diversity. Additionally, each character is fleshed out far beyond the stereotypical sci-fi norm, which is a breath of fresh air from typical science fiction and horror films.

While Annihilation gets many things right, the main issue the film suffers from is pacing. Some scenes drag on too long to the point where whatever feeling or point the scene was trying to convey feels redundant.

The pacing also suffers due to decisions concerning the nonlinear structure of the plot’s timeline. The film often jumps between flashbacks and the present day, and these jumps sometimes occur at points that abruptly take the audience out of the action. 

Despite these flaws, Annihilation is still an entertaining and well-crafted film. Its stunning visuals, well-written script and excellent performances make for a cerebral fever dream that will impress fans of science fiction and horror films alike.