Movie Review: ‘Leave the World Behind’ is a terrific blend of thriller, disaster and satire

by Lucas Garcia
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Film Review: ‘Leave the World Behind’ Offers an Engaging Fusion of Thriller, Disaster, and Satire

Picture this: It’s almost midnight, and a sharp knock on the door of your opulent weekend rental home startles you. A man, dressed impeccably in a tuxedo, stands at the threshold, calmly seeking your assistance, claiming it’s his home, and that he and his daughter urgently require your help.

In this scenario, does the man’s attire make a difference? Does his race come into play?

This pivotal moment is where Netflix’s “Leave the World Behind” truly comes alive, and it never loses momentum as it hurtles toward a gripping conclusion. This outstanding apocalyptic psychological thriller delves into themes of race, affluence, and responsibility while taking us on an unforgettable journey.

As the world outside descends into chaos, the luxurious home transforms into a fortress of sorts. The supposed homeowner attempts to justify his unexpected arrival, stating, “Given the circumstances, we believed you’d understand.” However, understanding is in short supply within these walls.

Amanda (portrayed with a sharp edge by Julia Roberts) and her husband Clay (a contemplative Ethan Hawke), who quotes Atlantic magazine, must collaborate with the even wealthier G.H. (the calmly sophisticated Mahershala Ali) and his astute daughter, Ruth (excellently portrayed by Myha’la). The racial divide looms larger than their shared social status.

Accompanying them in this disaster are Amanda and Clay’s children: a daughter obsessed with “Friends” (the soulful Farrah Mackenzie, who even sports a “Rachel” hairstyle) and her older, slightly moody 16-year-old brother (the brooding Charlie Evans).

This adaptation, skillfully directed by Sam Esmail, the mastermind behind “Mr. Robot,” pays homage to Alfred Hitchcock, complete with a man attempting to evade a crashing plane and the use of discordant music that echoes Hitchcock’s style. Esmail even makes a Hitchcockian cameo as a lifeless body on a beach.

The director skillfully builds the sense of impending dread, and the film is punctuated with visually striking moments. For instance, as the family embarks on their adventure, their car exits at “Point Comfort,” creating a memorable visual. The camera often swirls and soars through shattered glass or holes in rooftops, resembling an uneasy bird or adopting unconventional angles.

The enigmatic catastrophe, where ships run aground and driverless cars careen like lemmings, strips away the veneer of civility, leaving adults and children at each other’s throats. Amanda, in particular, reveals a darker side, while her previously conciliatory husband deserts a hysterical survivor on the roadside. The sense of community disintegrates, firearms emerge, and a “protect-at-all-costs” mentality prevails.

The acting is top-notch, a necessity for a drama that hinges on manners and concealed secrets. Every sigh and glance conveys volumes. Julia Roberts, in a less familiar role, exhibits a newfound edge, while Mahershala Ali effortlessly balances sophistication and cunning. Their scenes together are some of the film’s most compelling.

However, a word of caution: Approach this film with the understanding that it leans more towards satire than a conventional action-survival movie. The open-ended conclusion may divide viewers, but it’s a journey worth embarking upon, as it never loses its grip. And don’t be surprised if there’s a surge in sales of survival tools this holiday season.

“Leave the World Behind,” a Netflix release available for streaming starting Friday, is rated R for “some sexual content, brief bloody images, language, and drug use.” With a runtime of 141 minutes, it earns three and a half stars out of four.

MPAA definition of R: Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

Online: Netflix – Leave the World Behind

Mark Kennedy can be found at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Thriller

Q: What is the main premise of “Leave the World Behind”?

A: “Leave the World Behind” is an apocalyptic psychological thriller that centers around two families, exploring themes of race, affluence, and responsibility as they navigate the chaos of a catastrophic event.

Q: Who are the key actors in the movie?

A: The film features notable actors including Julia Roberts, Ethan Hawke, Mahershala Ali, and a talented ensemble cast.

Q: Is this movie more of a traditional action-survival film?

A: No, “Leave the World Behind” leans more toward satire rather than a typical action-survival movie. It delves into social commentary and interpersonal dynamics amidst the disaster.

Q: What is the runtime of the film?

A: The film has a runtime of 141 minutes, providing ample time to explore its complex themes and characters.

Q: Where can I watch “Leave the World Behind”?

A: “Leave the World Behind” is available for streaming on Netflix, starting on the specified release date.

Q: What is the MPAA rating for the movie?

A: The movie is rated R, which means it may contain content not suitable for viewers under 17 without accompanying parental or adult guardian supervision.

Q: Who directed the film, and what is their background?

A: The film was brilliantly adapted and directed by Sam Esmail, known for his work as the showrunner of “Mr. Robot.” Esmail’s direction draws inspiration from Alfred Hitchcock’s style.

Q: How does the film handle the theme of race and affluence?

A: The film explores the racial and socioeconomic divides among the characters, highlighting how these factors come into play during a crisis, adding depth to the storyline.

Q: Are there any memorable visual moments in the film?

A: Yes, the film offers visually striking scenes, with the camera’s movements and angles contributing to the overall atmosphere. One notable moment is when the family exits their car at “Point Comfort.”

Q: Does the film have a conclusive ending?

A: The film has an open-ended conclusion that may leave viewers with differing interpretations, but it maintains a gripping narrative throughout its runtime.

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