I watched this on Netflix. But it was released in cinemas and is widely available.
Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac, Jennifer Jason Leigh. A science fiction film set in the present day, with a top cast, and an interesting premise.
Naturally, I was going to watch this one.
An older-looking (finally) Portman plays the successful biology professor, Lena. She is still mourning the loss of her Special Forces soldier husband, Kane. (Isaac) His unit disappeared on a covert mission one year earlier, and he is presumed dead. Then one evening, he suddenly appears at the house. His memory of the past year is blurred, and his timeline skewed. He doesn’t know where he was, or how he got back. And he is also very ill.
When he collapses, his distraught wife gets an ambulance. But on the way to the hospital, they are hijacked by a black ops team, and taken to a top secret research base in a remote part of America. There, Lena discovers the secret that the government is keeping. There has been an ‘incident’, called The Shimmer. A large area has been taken over by an unseen force, inside a shimmering glow. It is growing at an alarming rate, and looks set to take over much of the region and eventually the whole of America. Everyone who has been sent in to try to find what happened has never returned.
Except for Kane, her husband.
Lena meets other women there, including the project director, Ventress. (Jason-Leigh) When she finds out that the team of female scientists is heading into the shimmer, to try to find the source of the power at an old lighthouse, she volunteers to go along.
So this is a film starring women. Isaac spends most of the film in a coma, with his role mainly played as flashbacks. The women are not chosen as eye candy, or to be dependent on male co-stars. They are all tough, intelligent, and have their own reasons for volunteering for the potentially suicidal mission. That made a refreshing change, I can tell you.
Once they enter inside The Shimmer, it is immediately apparent that something very strange is happening. Animals are familiar, yet mutated. The same goes for flowers and plants, which are out of place, yet growing abundantly. Some plants have even grown into the shape of human beings, and much of the infrastructure is being rapidly reclaimed by this ‘new version’ of Nature.
The team discovers that they have lost all sense of time. Their memories are affected, compasses and electronic equipment don’t work, and they are forced to rely on their wits to survive, as their spirits degenerate, and they begin to turn on each other. Only by getting to the lighthouse can they discover the truth about what is happening to the planet.
We are treated to a few shocks, a little gore, and a lot of intelligent concepts. We have to deal with DNA, the multiplication and duplication of cells, and how biology adapts to a given circumstance. Yet the viewer doesn’t need to have a biology degree to understand it, they just have to pay attention.
With a great cast on top form, special effects that are (mostly) very convincing, and a story that requires engagement from the viewer, I have to conclude that this was actually very good indeed.