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Best Movies of 2018 - Annihilation

As another great year of movies comes to a close, JoBlo.com staff will be curating our selection of the best films of 2018. Whether it be animation or live action, comedy or drama, horror or action (or maybe even a romance!), these are the movies that struck our staff more than any other. So enjoy our picks and let us know what your favorites were in the comments below.

ANNIHILATION (Released February 23rd, 2018)

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? After a meteor lands on Earth, an anomoly takes place in the wilderness near the crash, transforming the environment into a dangerous new world. When human expeditions go awry, a team of five women are sent in on a new mission, which pits them against nature, each other and the unknown that is disrupting their world.

WHO'S IN IT? Natalie Portman as Lena, Oscar Isaac as Kane, Jennifer Jason Leigh as Dr. Ventress, Tessa Thompson as Josie, Gina Rodriguez as Anya, Tuva Novotny as Cass and Benedict Wong as Lomax.

WHO MADE IT? Based on the novel by Jeff VanderMeer, the first book of a trilogy series called the Southern Reach Trilogy, the film is adapted and directed by Alex Garland (EX MACHINA, DREDD)

WHY IT'S ONE OF THE BEST FILMS OF 2018:

ANNIHILATION sent my son to the hospital. That's not hyperbole or a metaphor. When the credits began to roll, my son began to have a panic attack, saying he couldn't breathe. He was scared and so was I, as he'd never encountered anything like this before. I drove him straight to the ER where they couldn't find anything wrong with him outside of an elevated heartrate. Now, he'd had a tough year thus far, but the catalyst was the final moments of ANNIHILATION that kicked off this little episode. The audio-visual punch of the finale is something to behold and is an unsettling, unnerving mindfuck that rocked my boat as well, although not enough to initiate a panic attack. For me, it left an indelible mark as a sci-fi film that took some beautiful leaps, creating things I'd never seen or imagined before, while paying homage to things I have. And, yes, it ultimately sent my kid to the hospital (Don't worry, he's fine now and wants you not to worry about him. He also wants me to remind you that STARSHIP TROOPERS is one of his favorite films, so he can handle it).

Alex Garland has been a magnificent talent to watch unfold. From writing such genre flicks as THE BEACH, 28 DAYS LATER, NEVER LET ME GO and SUNSHINE to directing the cult classic DREDD (yes, he was the TRUE director) and the highly-acclaimed EX MACHINA, Garland has continued to put forth work that challenges us, but also satisfies on so many levels. When people complain about there being no originality in Hollywood, Garland is a quick defense and ANNIHILATION is further evidence of his contributions to the medium. Science Fiction is a complex genre and one that allows more exploration into the fascinating and unknown. Garland seems to truly understand this and takes great pains to dive into the genre by showing us something new, rather than retreading something we've seen many times over. ANNIHILATION is unlike anything I've seen in the genre before; From the design of the "The Shimmer" and what it does to the wildlife, the flora and fauna and most certainly the people, ANNIHILATION takes things into unexpected territory that's full of mystery, horror, shocks and beauty.

"The other thing I noticed, the thing I found sort of troubling was that there was one way of reading it that the people who went into the Shimmer were self-destructive, or had self-destructive tendencies particular to them. And my intention was more along the lines of the reason everyone in there is self-destructive, or that these people happen to be self-destructive, is because everybody is self-destructive. Any group of people going in there would be dealing with the same thing, if you see what I mean? It wasn't about a specific group. It was more about a general point. But you know what? I have my own interpretation or thoughts about what's going on, and if other people don't share it, or if they have their own, I'm completely cool with that. It doesn't bother me." - Alex Garland on the self-destruction themes in Annihilation (via Thrillist)

Natalie Portman plays it strong and vulnerable as a biology professor and former soldier trying to decipher "The Shimmer" while uncovering what happened to her soldier husband (Oscar Isaac), who was lost and then returned from there a very changed man. She's not who you would typically think of for a role like this, but she's no stranger to getting in on the action from time to time, either. The rest of the cast add their own personal touches, with everyone having their own unique reasons for being on the mission. Gina Rodriguez is especially convincing as the "tough one" of the group, while Tessa Thompson is far more toned down her usual larger-than-life performances. But, while the acting is solid, the true strength of the film is the visual aesthetic that is both beautiful and horrific at once, from a dead body that's morphed into a "blooming skeleton" against a wall that could very well be an art installation to a murderous, decaying, transformed bear to a killer albino alligator with additional rows of teeth to the "being" at the end that is frightening in shape, movement and relative lack of distinction. These are things that stay with you long after the credits roll and any film that can leave that kind of mark is something worth discussing. 

You also can't talk about ANNIHILATION without talking about the score and the sound design, which make up for a big part of its impact. Without those two elements, the visuals would truly be lessened. The score by Ben Salisbury and Portishead's Geoff Barrow is an eerie experience that strikes your eardrums and rattles your senses, while feeling perfectly in tune with everything onscreen. The pairing of this audio-visual spectacle gives the film its heartbeat, which really comes to life in the finale between Portman and the "being" that mimics her. It's this and so much more that make ANNIHILATION such a gratifying experience and one of the best films of 2018, let alone one of the best new entries in the sci-fi genre. It's a complex film with an intriguing concept, but not so ambiguous that you can't make sense of it. It simply isn't watered down or spelled-out, which makes it all the more compelling and something that will likely haunt you when it's over and, as has been proven to me, potentially send you to the ER.

BEST SCENE:

I've mentioned the ending where Portman's character encounters the "being" which is essentially a clone of herself manifested from the extraterrestrial that has landed there and begun to disrupt the place, which is a truly wild, unsettling scene. However, the one that will likely stick with you the most is when the women are attacked by a mutated bear that bears that echoes the screaming voice of one of its victims. It's a horrific sound and is likely to send chills down your spine as it terrorizes the women, three of which are tied up and at the beast's mercy. If you were already afraid of being attacked by a bear, I assure you this will not help you. However, it's another testament to the film's originality and risk, making something that could easily have been a cheap gimmick into something truly terrifying and unsettling. Seeing it for the first time, I remember being shocked at first, then smiling ear-to-ear at how brilliant it was and how well it fit the nature of the story. Great and unforgettable stuff.

BEST LINES:

Dr. Ventress: "It's not like us... it's unlike us. I don't know what it wants, or if it wants, but it'll grow until it encompasses everything. Our bodies and our minds will be fragmented into their smallest parts until not one part remains... Annihilation."

Kane: "I thought I was a man. I had a life. People called me Kane. And now I'm not so sure. If I wasn't Kane, what was I? Was I you? Were you me?"

Lena: "It wasn't destroying. It was changing everything. It was making something new."

Josie: "Imagine dying frightened and in pain and having that as the only part of you which survives."

Lena: "You said nothing comes back. But something has."

NOTEWORTHY PERFORMANCES:

Natalie Portman is simply one of the best actresses working today, so having her in your film is always a bonus (Okay, unless we're talking about NO STRINGS ATTACHED). Everyone else pulls their weight, but I think the real noteworthy performance here is by Alex Garland, who simply made a terrific film that is so out-of-the-box from what most studios would greenlight for the genre, particularly with an A-list cast. It's sad that the studio seemingly buried the film overseas by selling the international rights to Netflix after test screenings didn't give them the feedback they'd hoped for. Once the rave reviews started to drop, it made for a head-scratcher of a decision that begs the question of why they made the film in the first place. Still, Garland stayed true to his style and passion and made the film he always intended to make and that takes some real gusto and the true "performance" that ultimately made the film into what it is.

“When it says it in the script, it’s like a contract—that is what I’m going to do. Now, listen, at the end of the day, is that difficult for the people making it and for the studio? Yeah, it’s really fucking hard. It was difficult to make, and it’ll be difficult to sell. I’ve been working in film long enough to know that if I wrote this script and we tried to make it, I knew where that would lead. I wasn’t under any illusions. Sure enough, that’s where it led.” - Alex Garland to The Wall Street Journal over selling Annihilation

AWARDS WORTHY?

This isn't exactly golden trophy style cinema as it's a complex and challenging watch that doesn't spell everything out in layman's terms and that tends to not ring the awards-worthy bell. However, on a technical level, ANNIHILATION absolutely deserves some recognition. From the sound design, visuals, photography, music and direction, ANNIHILATION is at the top of the sci-fi genre game and most definitely should be considered when handing out participation trophies among Hollywood elites in dresses and tuxedos.

REWATCH-O-METER:

ANNIHILATION is a tough watch. This isn't the fucking GOONIES. You need to be in the mood and you need to be ready to watch it from top to bottom. If you're looking for something to casually watch while you surf your Instagram feed then ANNIHILATION is not that film. Probably not the best flick to kick off a first date with, either. This is a film to pop in when you're hungry for something fresh, are looking for inspiration or simply want to immerse yourself in something that tickles the brain as much as the emotions. For that reason, I'll say this one is best-suited for When The Mood Strikes or, even better, when you run into a friend or family member that hasn't seen it. Pop it in and watch them experience it for the first time, especially that bear scene. It's the closest you'll get to experiencing that gruesome moment for yourself again.

READ MORE OF JOBLO.COM'S BEST MOVIES OF 2018:

MANDY

A QUIET PLACE

FIRST REFORMED

PADDINGTON 2

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - FALLOUT

A STAR IS BORN

Source: JoBlo.com

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