Natalie Portman journeys into familiar territory in Annihilation

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Last December, they sold the distribution rights for all overseas markets (save China) to Netflix, where the film will begin streaming on March 12, just 17 days after its theatrical bow. Opening this week, it represents thoughtful science fiction at its most engaging.

"No", says the director. Everything he suggested with Ex Machina he pursues on a grander scale here. Things also get a little muddled heading into Annihilation's climax, but it's forgivable in a story so admirably confident in its outrageousness.

The movie is a sci-fi tale mixed with some legit horror elements. The "real" Kane committed suicide in the Shimmer after discovering what the alien entity that crashed in the lighthouse really is. As soon as the two hug, Shimmer-Kane spreads the Shimmer to Lena. So when I saw the rough cut, I had my hiking experiences in my head, the novel I wrote in my head, the fan art that came after that, and the set visit.

Natalie Portman stars as Lena, a biologist, professor and former soldier. Lena doesn't care who's in Kane's body, she just wants to be with him. The five-woman unit also includes Anya (Gina Rodriguez, "Jane the Virgin"), Josie (Tessa Thompson, "Westworld", "Creed") and Cass (Tuva Novotny, "Eat Pray Love"), who bring various attributes to the effort. There are things that go bump - and scream in alarmingly familiar human voices - in the night, and a paranoia that threatens to tear these women apart if the more visible malignant forces don't get them first.

It's also pleasant to report that while the majority of the characters will simply be known for the skill quality that determines the objective of their tagging along the mission (psychologist, medic, anthropologist, so on and so forth), there's a reason each of them is essentially signing up for inevitable doom, and it all comes back to that aforementioned dialogue contending suicide vs. self-destruction (strongly acted between Natalie Portman and Jennifer Jason Leigh).

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And Paramount also optioned your novel, Borne, too. He's ably assisted by some atmospheric sound design and an insidiously effective score from Ben Salisbury and Portishead instrumentalist/producer-turned-composer Geoff Barrow. Everyone contributes to make this a very special cinematic offering.

"But you work according to the medium you're working in, and some of this film is explicitly created to be seen on a big screen". ANNIHILATION is not ARRIVAL or ALIENS. Kudos to Portman and company for signing up for this expedition.

Still, I didn't walk away disliking the movie, and not just because its deserves accolades for managing to weave originality into a studio's big-budget slate. This deserves a true push. "[.] Annihilation becomes ever more trippy and challenging - and thus ever more interesting".

"Yes, this is the kind of film where you might find yourself turning to your movie-mate and whispering 'How GREAT is this!' just as your companion is putting the popcorn under the seat and is about to suggest cutting your losses and getting the heck out of there [.] The world inside the contaminated zone is alternately horrifying and attractive". Again, look for a very poor CinemaScore (an F is not out of the question), but ignore that. There's no doubt that it's a great film, but it feels like a movie best appreciated after two viewings or even three. Garland is displaying tremendous ambition and should be an A-list filmmaker in short order. It's definitely got the required bloody violence, particularly with a bear attack that rivals and maybe exceeds the one we saw in The Revenant, but the intensity only keeps ratcheting up toward a knockout conclusion. This is slightly more in common with projects I've worked on like "Ex Machina" or 'Never Let Me Go, ' which are taking something about our world now - not our world in the future, but our world as it is right now - and then drawing sort of inferences and conclusions from it.

Still, Garland's not planning to abandon feature filmmaking since movies have "a kind of immersive quality of vision and sound that's impossible to get at home, unless you are going to drop a lot of money on an fantastic system". You can thank me later...

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