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Annihilation is an all female-led science fiction film about guilt, biology, and the human tendency for self-destruction. So I guess its no wonder Paramount dumped it on Netflix after loosing sleep over its box-office appeal.

It copped some controversy after being caught up in a battle between the studio and director Alex Garland (Ex Machina) for being “too intellectual.” While financially the studio’s fears were confirmed, visually its damn lucky they didn’t water it down. This is a film with a cool plot and some downright lush visuals.

Natalie Portman is Lena, a cellular biology professor who is recruited along with four others to study a quarantine zone in a swampy corner of America called The Shimmer. Lena’s reasons for accepting the mission are more personal than scientific: her military husband is the only person to enter The Shimmer and come out alive. You just know this is going to be a twofold journey: a trek through an alien landscape, and the dark emotional landscape of the protagonist.

The first scene we’re given after entering The Shimmer is the inside of a tent which feels like an odd and underwhelming decision by the director. But when Lena emerges from the tent and announces she remembers nothing since passing through the shimmery wall, it feels like the perfect way to introduce this strange new world.

Without giving too much away, something is seriously not right within The Shimmer. As the scientists begin to join the dots, the film shifts gears into “thriller” mode. But don’t get too excited; while there are some excellent tension-filled scenes – one in particular involving a bear-creature that echoes screams of agony from its latest victim – Annihilation never crosses fully into the horror genre. It’s an enjoyable ride, but nothing to write home about.

It’s the ending that’s the kicker. Garland tackles some complex conceptual territory (at least for this High School Science flunker) that will probably require a debrief with a mate, or at the very least a quick Google. Up until this point Annihilation was lingering dangerously close to being mediocre, but the last few scenes cement it as a Sci-Fi classic.

The Diagnosis:
So is it as amazing as you’ve heard? Probably not. Should you see it? Absolutely.

– Ellin Williams