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Leave the world behind

With huge names including Julia Roberts (Notting Hill), Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), Ethan Hawke (The Black Phone) and Kevin Bacon (Crazy, Stupid, Love.), and an interesting premise hinting at something thrilling and dystopian, Leave the World Behind is a Netflix Original that's been on our radars more than most others. Directed by Sam Esmail of popular show Mr. Robot, the story seemed to be in very safe hands. Leave the World Behind is thankfully as intriguing as it sounds, with fantastic tension building and strong performances. However, it's failure to stick the landing and over-explaining of the obvious gives it a disappointing conclusion.


A family's getaway to a luxurious rental home takes an ominous turn when a cyberattack knocks out their devices, and two strangers appear at their door.


Many will be hitting play on Leave the World Behind for it's actors, and the performances are certainly worth the watch. Julia Roberts is as captivating as ever, despite playing a seriously unlikeable character – she does it well. Her chemistry with husband Clay, played by Ethan Hawke, is great; it's always fun to see this pair on screen. They effortlessly switch between rational and frantic, as they try to stay calm for their kids but realise something terrible could happen and become understandably scared. Mahershala Ali, widely regarded as one of the most talented actors of our generation, is also great. When he turns up at Roberts and Hawke's rental that he owns, he's quite mysterious and ominous, and despite us learning more about him as the plot progresses, it's hard to know whether to fully trust him as he hints at knowing more but won't fully come clean. Kevin Bacon receives less screen-time than expected, but does command the scene he is placed in.

Leave the world behind

The movies most commendable attribute is it's tension building. It's a very slow burner but this works a treat, as scary incidents are placed meticulously through the run-time to keep us on our toes. Leave the World Behind is heavily dialogue driven but the conversations between our characters are undeniably well-written, some lines managing to send a shiver down your spine as they hint at what's to come and what could happen if things get worse. Despite not necessarily being a graphic or scary flick, it's extremely unsettling to watch and sits comfortably within the thriller genre because of this. It's less dystopian than it's premise comes across, meaning it's quite scarily something that it's audience could potentially see happen. As the film shows us, there's nothing scarier than being cut off from the rest of the world and not being able to find out what's happening.

There's a lot of stylistic flair that helps to elevate the movie. It has consistently interesting cinematography and is playful with it's camerawork, often adding to the claustrophobia and isolation that the plot presents. The score plays such a huge part in the movie that at times, it feels like it's own character; it is incredibly prominent within every scene, and adds such a strong sense of foreboding that makes it the most unsettling attribute. The sound design works an absolute treat, with it's terrifying sirens helping to put is in the characters shoes. It has all the elements to create a competent thriller.

Leave the world behind

Until the last act of the movie, Leave the World Behind is an absolute triumph; unfortunately, it fails to stick the landing, as it cannot wrap up it's ideas cohesively. The issue isn't necessarily the ambiguity, as we get a pretty good idea about how things will play out once the credits roll. The issue is that what's to come is explained rather than shown – it's the ultimate exposition/info-dump, and it's a great shame. There are also some freaky things that happen during the movie that seem to purely be for shock factor, as they don't fit in with what we are told is going down. It was an incredibly lazy way to end the flick, and the average movie watcher will be seriously disappointed when the credits seem to roll as the climax arrives. There's also some irony that needs to be addressed here; one of our characters is bummed out because when the technology gives out, they cannot watch the finale of their favourite show. It dives into the importance of physical media, something that Netflix actively seems to ignore. Perhaps they should practice what they preach.

Overall, Leave the World Behind is worth recommending due to it's excellent tension building, it's performances from the star-studded cast and the creativity behind it's technical elements. It's really good, but if it had an ending as successful as it's first two acts, it would've been great.


Rating Leave the world behind


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