Annihilation (2018)

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Arriving on Netflix, is this bold and engagingly strange science fiction from Alex Garland. It’s arguably one of the finer films of this genre I’ve ever seen, questioning the audience with its intelligent themes of rationality and life.

After a figure from Lena’s (Natalie Portman) life comes back into the fold, she ends up at a government facility close to a glistening barrier known as The Shimmer which is expanding. Dr Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh) leads Lena and three others into this weird anomaly to try and stop it reaching civilisation and to hopefully uncover exactly what it is.

Alex Garland has been writing screenplays since 2002 and after his blistering debut directorial work on 2015’s ‘Ex Machina’, this was a movie I was eagerly awaiting. Garland has managed to capture the traumas and oddities of a strange new world from within Jeff VanderMeer’s novel of the same name. As this film goes along, there’s a fantastic sense of slow-burning tension that doesn’t always need to pay off with big action because he directs in such a way that chills to the core and makes this environment feel visceral.

A sci-fi with plenty of intrigue and interesting ideas aren’t always common to come by, so gladly this is an exception, in the same vein as the smartly concocted ‘Arrival’. It’s a film that I think deserves to go down as a classic in its genre, as it grips like a row of razor sharp teeth sinking into you, as you get hooked onto the creepy air of unease and confusion that roams this altering landscape.

The Shimmer itself is a world of melding possibilities leading to some of the most beautiful shots I’ve seen this year, ones that I utterly wished I could have seen on the big screen, but again Paramount offloaded one of theirs to be released by streaming juggernaut Netflix. Rob Hardy’s cinematography is sublime and truly keeps you on the edge of your seat as we trek through somewhere, that is at once stunning and dripping with mystery.

There are some unnerving moments within ‘Annihilation’ which I won’t divulge any further as to avoid spoilers, but I will say, what lurks in The Shimmer certainly builds a scary level to the back and forth narrative with Lena. Also, the final act is absolutely incredible. My mouth was agape for the duration and my skin was layered with goosebumps, in a lighthouse set sequence I can only describe as hauntingly glorious and terrifying in a way that seems to burrow into your very being.

Natalie Portman is a strong presence from start to finish, her character background aptly aids her through this lush yet dangerous world of lost memories and trepidation. Portman easily acts that sense of forceful wanting and knowledgeable progression. She also carries an empathetic sadness and regret throughout, which makes her an interesting character to follow. The entire team are a formidable squad of females with enough drip fed information about their lives, to give us understanding of their choices and motivations. Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny and Gina Rodriguez all neatly display the fraying of their minds as they descend further into The Shimmer. The latter gets a crackling turn to shine in a scene that sees her burst with an intensity, adding to the ferociousness of what happens.

‘Annihilation’ is a masterful movie and one I will definitely be watching again. It carries a quiet menace as the unknown is explored and identity is questioned more and more.

8.5/10

 

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The Boy and the World (2013)

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One of the most interesting animations I have ever ever seen, this multi award winning Brazilian movie will stick with me for it’s refreshing originality, message and complexity. I only wish I’d seen it before now but at least I’ve seen it and I hope it reaches a wide audience because it deserves large viewer ship.

A young boy living in a house away from the hubbub of a fictional city with his mum and dad, sees his father leave by train one day. He keeps seeing his dad even when he’s not there so one day the child decides to board a train and try to reunite his family leading him to see more and more of the world.

Ale Abreu’s direction is near flawless; the decisions he makes in expanding this textural world are luscious and seamless. Each scene or new landscape is a transition of pure poetry with lines sprawling into the next white screen to create the next new location. He certainly knows how to direct an animation that speaks volumes even when there is no dialogue.

That’s the thing, with a film of next to no talking this film is rich and weighty and just sublime. There may be a couple of ideas in Abreu’s screenplay that lost me, whether it’s endless dads or the pre-ending home scene but all in all this is a cleverly written script that utilises on a rainbow world for children with grown up themes and very oppressing visuals and subtext to hit home for the adult watchers.

When moving on to the animation, it must be said that you’ve not seen anything like this before, almost guaranteed as we see ever growing worlds filled with technology, absurdity and newspaper cuttings mixed in with the hand-drawn like characters. It’s artwork is mesmerising, just the opening alone with it’s kaleidoscopic and hypnotising lines and swirls draw you into the bright world. A video game looking section as shipping containers get sucked into glass domes or the first train sequence filled with white rails and a black screen shuttling us into the city land are two further examples of how amazingly unique this film is.

Ruben Feffer and Gustavo Kurlat more than make this film too, with their engaging musical contribution. The festival atmosphere and harmonic singing from time to time is distinctive and then there’s the neat sound used. Accordions for car horns or clapping when rain hits the ground. It’s a film fascinatingly magical in colour and sound.

I must also comment on a moment when the cartoon burns and peels away, what an impacting surprise and though there’s been hints to the deep presence of life and Earth shattering changes before now, this is when we fully see one message of this film which raised hairs on my arm and neck. This film is political but not overly so that cute critters and colourful innocence still keep interest for the little watchers.

Apart from a tiny sprinkle of confusion and white screen pain this animation is sensational and I feel better for having watched such an interesting and vibrant story.

8.5/10