A meteor “crashes” on a lighthouse in a mysterious manner and engulfs the structure with a soft light. The glistening expanse surrounding ground zero — which was later sealed off by the US government and simply referred to later as the “shimmer” — starts to grow, immersing areas with its radiance. Three years later, Lena (Natalie Portman), a Johns Hopkins biology professor, eschews a weekend date to paint her bedroom when her husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) — who has been unheard from for over a year since taking part in a covert military operation — returns home announced before quickly succumbing to a seizure. The just-reunited couple was abducted by heavily armed government men while on an ambulance, only to find themselves later in a secret facility called Area X, run and managed by the same authorities monitoring the developments just outside the growing “shimmer”.
Apparently, of all the people from official, mostly military missions sent in to investigate the out-of-this-world phenomenon, only a dying sergeant Kane has returned. Of course, Lena had to be part of the next crew. She joins psychologist Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh), paramedic Anya (Gina Rodriguez), geomorphologist Cass (Tuva Novotny), and physicist Josie (Tessa Thompson). Will this new team be able to find out the facts behind the mystery of the Shimmer? Or will they all end up like the previous missions sent in before them?