Annihilation shines

Eve Crandall, Iris Editor-in-Chief

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Although I don’t typically enjoy science fiction movies, I was intrigued by the premise of  Annihilation. In the movie, Lena (played by Natalie Portman), a professor of biology, goes on a mission along with four other women into a mysterious zone where the rules of nature don’t apply. Lena’s husband, Kane (Oscar Isaac), has recently returned from this area, referred to as “The Shimmer,” where he was involved in a confidential military mission.

Kane was the sole survivor of his mission, and as soon as he returns, he becomes ill and is taken to a government compound where he falls into a coma. After learning about her husband’s mission and about the existence of The Shimmer, Lena decides that the only way to save him is to join the next mission.

The mission’s team is made up of four other women, which I was very impressed with. I had sort of been expecting Lena to be the only woman on the mission, because often in this genre of movies, one woman per group is considered plenty. The dynamic between Lena and her teammates was interesting to watch, and by the end of the movie, I genuinely cared for each one of them.

The five women are the first team of scientists to go on a mission into The Shimmer (the previous unsuccessful teams were military). The fact that they are scientists instead of soldiers sets the tone for the rest of the film, because their first goal is to learn about it before defeating it.

Their collective knowledge allows them to understand The Shimmer in a unique way. After examining specimens with crossbred DNA such as an alligator shark and plants that have crossed with animals, Lena comes to the conclusion that The Shimmer is not destroying anything, but rather creating something new.

As the stakes are raised and the mission becomes more and more dangerous, the film begins to ask questions about the nature of existence. The last part of the film is unexpected, because as they grow closer to the source of The Shimmer, they question not only the reason it exists, but also their own personal connection to it.

All of the women who go on the mission have difficult life situations that make them willing to risk their lives for the greater good. Within The Shimmer, they are forced to confront dangerous animals in addition to their own personal demons.

At times, this movie is terrifying and violent, and at other times it is very peaceful, highlighting the overlap between destruction and creation that exists within The Shimmer. The stellar performances from the five actors allow the film to tell such an unconventional story in a convincing way, making Annihilation truly special.