As the Bob Dylan song says, ‘The Times They Are A Changing.” Our world is becoming more and more a shell of itself. Civilization and the humans inhabiting our globe struggle daily navigating on a planet moving at warp speed, making us turn on each other, looming disasters and impending war around every corner as we wonder what lies next or beneath the surface.
In this apocalyptic thriller from award-winning writer and director Sam Esmail, Amanda (Julia Roberts) and her husband Clay (Ethan Hawke), rent a luxurious home for the weekend with their kids, Archie (Charlie Evans) and Rose (Farrah Mackenzie). Their vacation takes a sudden shift when two strangers — G.H. (Mahershala Ali) and his daughter Ruth (Myha’la) arrive in the middle of the night, bearing news of a mysterious cyberattack and seeking refuge in the house they claim is theirs. As the looming disaster grows more terrifying by the second, the two families are forced to come to terms with their places in a collapsing world disappearing before their eyes.
Based on the National Book Award-nominated novel by Rumaan Alam, Esmail sets up the cinematic circumstances perfectly with a ominous soundtrack swirling around images of space. Giving a Hitchcock vibe, and gorgeous shot, the film is laden with circular overhead shots illustrating the beauty of a peaceful upstate New York, while setting its audience up for a seismic shift of epic proportions. Email’s screenplay is witty and razor sharp while straddling the line of comedy and suspenseful drama making this a unique and exciting cinematic experience.
There are too many wonderfully crafted moments to count from nods to the iconic NBC sitcom ‘Friends, watching self-driving Teslas run amok, Julia Roberts dancing like Elaine from ‘Seinfeld’ to one of my favorite lines. “…nothing is more frightening than a person who won’t learn at their own expense. In addition, I respect the manner in which Esmail addresses the ‘elephant in the room’ racial elements of white superiority laced with a “how could you possibly afford this’ attitude from Amanda who goes toe to toe with Ruth’s (Myha’la) ‘who do you think you are attitude.” The whole vibe is spectacularly smart.
Julia Roberts, Ethan Hawke, Mahershala Ali and Myha’la are equally yoked and a pure chemistry fire of riches. Each actor brings such specificity to their characters and performances that one forgets they are acting.
Eerily reminiscent to what our current world affairs are, it suffices to say that this Barack and Michelle Obama produced psychological thriller will leave audiences stressed out, on edge and like its characters, somehow longing for hope to begin in the dark.
Leave The World Behind is now streaming on Netflix