May 29, 2018  (Web Review)

Annihilation

Paramount, 114 min., R, DVD: $30.99, Blu-ray/DVD Combo: $39.99, May 29

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

Director Alex Garland’s ominous sci-fi thriller is drenched with a pervasive sense of foreboding and dread. The story begins with professor of cellular biology Lena (Natalie Portman) being interrogated by Lomax (Benedict Wong), who is in a hazmat suit. Displaying no emotion, Lena calmly explains how her military husband, Kane (Oscar Isaac), was dispatched on a secret mission and then disappeared. In flashbacks, almost a year passes before he returns, looking bizarrely catatonic and experiencing convulsions. After summoning an ambulance, Lena is mysteriously kidnapped, along with her now-comatose, dying husband, who is placed in quarantine by federal authorities. According to psychologist Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a meteorite strike has left the swampland around a lighthouse on the Florida coastline surrounded by a glistening, inexplicable force field called the Shimmer, which is rapidly expanding. Although others have been sent in, Kane is the only person to ever emerge. Suspecting some kind of alien abduction/extraterrestrial intervention, Lena joins an expedition of intrepid female scientists (Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny) who are determined to reach the symbolic lighthouse and discover what’s really going on. Equipped with assault weapons, the team infiltrates the luminescent Shimmer, encountering a horrifying series of violent, mutated creatures, including a shark-toothed alligator and a screaming bear. Based on the 2014 first book of Jeff VanderMeer’s bestselling “Southern Reach” trilogy, Annihilation is a compelling watch, even if the complicated metaphysical plot is often incoherent. Recommended. [Note: DVD/Blu-ray extras include the behind-the-scenes featurettes “For Those That Follow” (15 min.), “Vanished Into Havoc” (15 min.), “Refractions” (12 min.), “Shimmer” (12 min.), “Unfathomable Mind” (12 min.), and “The Last Phase” (8 min.). Exclusive to the Blu-ray release are bonus DVD, digital, and UltraViolet copies of the film. Bottom line: a solid extras package for an engaging sci-fi thriller.] (S. Granger)