MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 1hr 55 min
So Lena heads into Area X alongside four other female scientists and doctors. There’s Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh), the distant team leader, a psychologist, who has seen team after team disappear into Area X and needs to know what’s in there for herself; Thorensen (Gina Rodriguez), an EMT with a history of addiction who is like a lit flame, always threatening to become a dangerous blaze; Radek (Tessa Thompson), a meek scientist with a history of self-abuse, and Sheppard (Tuva Novotny), the friendliest of the bunch, who harbors a dark truth of her own. Together, these wounded, brilliant women head into mystery, and the moment they cross into the luminescent, rainbow-tinged perimeter known as “The Shimmer,” the whole world transforms into a kaleidoscope of impossible biological deviation as they seek to get to the heart of what’s causing the mystifying mutations that greet them at every turn.
Because Garland isn’t just telling one linear tale about a deadly expedition, he’s working freely and heavily in the realm of metaphor. Underneath all the screaming bears and shark-toothed gators, Annihilation is a film about self-destruction, in all its forms. The film tells you this over and over again — from the biological failures of cancer and aging, the ways the body turns on itself, to the multitude of human capacities for self-destruction — infidelity, self-harm, addiction, et cetra — Annihilation is a stunning, sweeping metaphor for the way human beings tear themselves apart. It’s wildly ambitious, occasionally alienating, and consummately perplexing; an irritant to the mind and spirit that demands self-reflection. Garland makes a few minor stumbles on the way to his vision, but his vision is rendered in complete, elegant detail, and even if it takes some time to digest, it’s a meticulously prepared feast for the eyes and the mind.