Blake Griggs’s review published on Letterboxd:
No change, ironically.
Runs like a fait accompli in reverse, but dosed on Benadryl and literalness, both more than prescribed. This would have been a tonal disaster, but just to leaven things up, did anyone else sense a missed opportunity for another spontaneous dance scene? We all know the perfect spot. A touch of lightness would have been explosive.
Perhaps because the flashback structure demanded it, but this is stuffily self-serious, which, for me, would not have been a problem if its ideas were not treated as ancillary to the events depicted. The constant pauses in dialogue feel put on when they are not concurrently there for the audience to ruminate in as well. Once the characters entered the Shimmer was when I began disengaging because that's when the film starts defaulting on its meditative promise and angular disorientation of everything that came before. The ideas are tweetably compact and remote in their handling: 'people are Heraclitean rivers, and like all life, are programmed to self-destruct.' It might be part of the world, but it is not part of the grammar. For me, that, and plot details, do not deserve what may have been more than 30 minutes of flat air. Any more ideational engagement would strike me as an imputation upon vagueness. Imputational because the movie is frequently direct with what it wants you to take away. The points are somehow all too fine and all too blunt. If you took out the languor, you might have a tidy hour of a sci-fi serial.
My last hang up is with the direction itself. For a story that ostensibly takes place in memory, the movie only intermittently takes on a perspective. Maybe the fact it shows things Lena could not have seen means it is not strictly memory and thus trustworthy; I don't know. Also, what we do often see is incurious or unconsidered. For example, as the scientists are passing through the membrane of the Shimmer, not the standoff before, not one of the characters acts like they have just signed their death sentence, nor is Garland interested in what the experience of passing through was like. Just shot from behind and shimmered in post. Garland's camera is often unmotivated, even in where it is set up. He shoots the characters moving through the environment but only sporadically in a way that suggests their relationship to it, which ought to be the visual subject of the entire movie.
I just read the book. This is very different, and fairly so. A faithful adaptation of that would have been uncommercial.