Star Cast: Julia Roberts, Mahershala Ali, Ethan Hawke, Myha’la, and Kevin Bacon.
Director: Sam Esmail
What’s Good: Slick direction and gorgeous cinematography accompany a great premise and performances from the star cast.
What’s Bad: Some of the dialogue can be too on the nose, and the more questions than answers ratio might leave some people unsatisfied.
Loo Break: The film boasts very solid pacing, and each scene is important, so there are no breaks.
Watch or Not?: If you were a fan of Mr. Robot or you just want to watch a better version of Knock at the Cabin, this is for you.
Language: English (with subtitles).
Available On: Netflix
Runtime: 140 Minutes.
Sam Esmail made a splash on the TV landscape with Mr. Robot on the USA Network. The show managed to be both a more realistic depiction of how hackers actually work and also go from time to time into the surreal, thanks to its unreliable narrator. Now, Esmail goes back to the director’s chair with a feature filled with amazing actors, a great and scary premise, and gorgeous visuals. The premise might remind us of Knock at the Cabin by M. Night Shyamalan, but make no mistake, Leave the World Behind is an infinitely better film.
Leave the World Behind Movie Review: Script Analysis
Just like in the case of Knock at the Cabin, Leave the World Behind is based on the novel of the same name written by Rumaan Alam. This makes for two film adaptations preoccupied by the end of the world in the same year. However, Leave the World Behind is just the perfect example of how the execution of an idea can really change things up. The approach that both Shyamalan and Esmail take on similar material makes all the difference. We, as audiences, win in the end, as we get to see totally different films.
While Shyamalan takes its premise and goes into more of a classical horror film vibe, Esmail’s take on the premise feels way more personal. The tiny little politics that accompany most stories like this feel unnecessary when the world is actually falling apart and people start realizing that they have probably lost the survival lottery before even realizing there was one. Esmail manages to contain the story in just a few locations, but the movie still feels massive. You can really feel that something is happening outside the characters’ point of view.
Doing something like that is not an easy task, but thankfully, the story moves between the different characters and shows them as real human beings. This jumping around creates a dynamic rhythm that, at times, feels almost like vertigo. The editing also does quite a lot to raise the stakes in each scene. You can really feel that Esmail has set up one particular style of storytelling, and it is the perfect way to tell a story like this. The use of visual effects is also commendable, and while this is not a big-budget movie, there are a couple of sequences that are beautifully shot and make quite an impact.
However, not everything is perfect. Some of the dialogue feels a bit on the nose. There are many important scenes where the characters reveal themselves, and there is no better tool for that than dialogue. Sadly, some of the lines feel too expository and don’t ring true when it comes to people actually speaking out loud what they are thinking. It all feels a bit too rehearsed in these scenes, which makes the story feel a bit stiff. Thankfully, the performances are good enough to overcome these low points.
Leave the World Behind Movie Review: Star Performance
Sam Esmail managed to become a prestige creator thanks to his work on Mr. Robot. He basically managed to create the momentum that would lead Rami Malek to win his Oscar for Best Actor. After that, he also managed to create a sort of creative partnership with Julia Roberts, one of the most important Hollywood actresses. Roberts might not be the movie star she once was, but her name still carries weight, and she totally steals the show in the movie, playing a woman and mother who probably doesn’t really like people as much as the average person.
Julia might be the focus of the movie, but she is sharing the screen with equally impressive actors. Mahershala Ali, the two-time Oscar-winning actor, also comes across as having a powerful screen presence. Ali just has that inexplicable quality that makes him just so captivating to look at. Here, he plays one of the most mysterious characters in the film, and yet, you cannot help but trust that he will do the right thing for you. Hawke does what he does best, and he is always reliable, while Myha’la keeps proving to be a promising young talent.
Leave the World Behind Movie Review: Direction, Music
Sam Esmail has a very particular visual style. For those of us who managed to see the entirety of Mr. Robot, it was quite a journey to see him develop a style of his own. If there is one word that would summarize Esmail’s style both in Mr. Robot and in Leave the World Behind, it is “unsettling.” The director manages to create tension in every scene, and even when you know something is going to happen, you might not be ready for when that thing happens on screen. We are not talking about cheap tricks like jump scares—not at all—but atmosphere.
Just like in Mr. Robot, the music plays an important part in the atmosphere. On this occasion, Mac Quayle, who has also worked with both Roberts and Esmail before, arrives with a score that is just made to raise the uneasy feeling that each scene must have. When the music and the editing perform together, they create quite an ambiance. There are also a couple of great needle drops here and there that make the world feel more real, and the final needle drop, the one that closes the movie, is quite legendary. So much, it will put a smile on your face.
Leave the World Behind Movie Review: The Last Word
Leave the World Behind is a fantastic movie for the holidays. This might sound like a weird statement, but the movie focuses deeply on trying to see others in a better light. In these times when people see more differences than similarities, it feels important to remember that even when you probably don’t like most people you meet, we are the only thing we have for each other. We should rise to the occasion and just avoid the doomsday scenario that the movie presents, and this can only be done with true openness and compassion. We need more movies like this.
Leave the World Behind Trailer
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For more recommendations, read our The Killer Movie Review here.