This one is a strange combination of sci-fi, horror, adventure, and
Yes, the aliens have invaded, but they've taken a
strange form: a kind of
shimmering rainbow-aura, that first takes over a lighthouse, then an
abandoned Army base, and seems to be spreading at a prodigious enough rate
to alarm the authorities, who've already sent in several military response
teams, and none have returned. (And
they've been all male.) So,
the thinking goes, let's try a group of female volunteers.
So, we have the anthropologist, the psychologist (and team leader),
a surveyor, a linguist, and a biologist, Lena (Natalie Portman), who
happens to specialize in studies of cell reproduction.
Well, what we have here is some kind of alien species that
replicates at an extraordinary rate. And
also re-directs the communication signals, and messes with the DNA.
So we have giant rampaging bears, and flesh-eating rampaging
alligators. And we have weird
mutant plants, that inexplicably produce different kinds of flowers from
the same stem. We even see
white antelope with flowers growing out of their horns.
So basically, everything we think we know about biology is out the
window. And we're only left
with our wits and our spirit of cooperation, both of which are in short
supply among our intrepid little expedition.
It turns out that all the women are, in the words of their leader,
“damaged goods.” Lena
herself is grieving over her husband, Kane (Oscar Isaac), who disappeared
a year ago in one of the failed military missions in this environmental
disaster area. Lena keeps
having these flashbacks to happier times with Kane, which also provides
the viewer with some backstory, as well as breaking up the grim saga of
the failed expedition. (There's
also the old plot device of telling the story in retrospect, with the
regular switchback to the present.)
Natalie Portman plays against type as the machine-gun toting
warrior in battle fatigues. She
enjoys a lot of camera time, and gets to portray many different moods.
But despite how much the camera loves her, not that many people are
eager to see carniverous monsters eating screaming women. (And current CGI
technology makes it look retchingly real.)
It's not a new idea, of course, that an alien species would invade
by inhabiting the bodies of the humans (zombie movies play from the same
script). But it is
creepy-fascinating to watch the replication of Lena taking shape and form,
as if practicing to be a perfect imitation of her.
This begs the larger question of what is it, exactly, that makes us
uniquely human? And how strong
is our survival instinct? Oh,
and how do you know that the person sitting across the dinner table from
you isn't really an alien in a perfect disguise?