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Leave the World Behind (2023)

A buck standing in the middle of a road with a multiple car pileup behind it

'Leave the World Behind' is the latest Netflix movie from writer and director Sam Esmail, adapted from Rumaan Alam's 2020 novel of the same name. As with most of Netflix's movies these days, this movie dropped onto streaming services with little to no promotional material whatsoever, leaving it to the audience to market their movies for them, be that through word of mouth or through discussion brought on via social media. And with all the noise this movie seems to be making at the moment, I figured I would check it out for myself before chatter became too spoiler heavy.

As for the plot of the movie, it's certainly best to experience 'Leave the World Behind' with as little knowledge as possible going in, so I'm going to keep this section vague. What I will say, is that this is a very on the edge of your seat experience, that will have you constantly guessing and speculating throughout. With multiple plot twists and red herrings that slow begin to come to light as the the story progresses, I would go as far as to say that this is quite easily the most narratively engaging and thought-provoking movie I have seen in a very long time. And in all honesty, the realism that comes from its possibility (or eventuality) makes this a genuinely terrifying experience.

The direction from Sam Esmail and cinematography from Tod Campell is pitch perfect. Some of the stylish techniques implemented into this movie make 'Leave the World Behind' one of the most immersive movies I have seen for some time. Their use of creative and visually awe-inspiring camera sequences felt very reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick's work in 'The Shining'. Utilising outstanding aerial camera work and impeccable transitioning work had me captivated from the opening act. Combining drone footage, dolly tracking and the occasional interjection of CGI, brings together some truly visionary work that I have nothing but high praise for.

Featuring an all star cast of both up and coming, and seasoned veterans of the game, it will come as no surprise to learn that everyone involved delivers outstanding performances throughout. Julia Roberts, Ethan Hawke and Kevin Bacon showcase why they have had such an extended career in Hollywood, and somewhat newcomers to the game Mahershala Ali and Myha'la Herrold hold their own throughout, in many instances outshining the broad talent on display. Herrold especially showcases her amazing range as a performer and delivers a captivating performance whenever she is on screen.

One of the key elements to 'Leave the World Behind's' success, aside from its well-driven story, is its phenomenal tension building and momentum driven score from Emmy-winning and Grammy-nominated composer Mac Quayle. It was his slow build piano crescendo moments that stood out to me the most, having a strong resemblance of an early 'Resident Evil' or 'Silent Hill' game, so with that in mind, it came as no surprise to me to learn that Quayle composed the music for 'The Last of Us - Part 2'. This movie also incorporates some incredible needle drops throughout to make up its soundtrack, be that from 'Kool & the Gang', 'Blackstreet', 'Next', or even 'The Rembrandts'. Yes, that's right, the 'Friends' theme song.

Overall, 'Leave the World Behind' is a stylishly visual delight, with exceptional performances from its central cast and a story that focuses on real world terrors to keep engagement to its highest level. And although not necessarily falling into the category of standardised horror, I strongly believe that this level of "predictive programming" and "Real World Paranoia" is to be the new sub-genre horror that will take over the big screen in the coming years. A more grounded version of 'Black Mirror' to pray on the fears of the vulnerable and susceptible, if you will. I'm surprised to see a movie like this not only so perfectly executed, but has gone on to take my top spot for movie of the year.


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