The debate around Netflix and theatrical runs is one which isn’t likely to go away anytime soon. Whilst the lack of a cinema release can deprive an audience of seeing a film in the manner intended by a director, it also allows their work to reach the widest possible audience. One area where this works particularly well is intelligent science fiction. Alex Garland, whose writing credits include 28 Days Later, Sunshine and Never Let Me Go, follows up his first film (the impressive) Ex Machine with another cerebral outing in Annihilation. Once again, the action takes place within a limited environment, allowing ideas to come to the fore.
Lena (Natalie Portman), a biology professor and former member of the military, is still struggling to cope with the loss of her husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) who failed to return from a mission almost a year ago. Much of this grief stems from an affair with a colleague (David Gyasi), which she thinks he knew about. His sudden reappearance, and subsequent collapse, leads her into the hands of Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh). The psychologist is leading a team of experts into ‘The Shimmer’, a strange biological zone where Kane went missing, and Lena is determined to discover the truth.
Based on the first book in the Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation is a strange and thoughtful film which focuses on the human question through an environmental treatise. Whilst Garland made several changes from the book, it retains the feel of a cerebral sci-fi novel. This makes for a film which feels both abstract and experimental at times, which sits nicely alongside a more linear action adventure film. If you’re a fan of thoughtful science fiction which mixes high concept ideas with sporadic kinetic bursts, then Annihilation is the film for you.
Annihilation launches on Netflix from 12 March.