Leave the World Behind


One day the world is going to end. It’s been scientifically proven; using their powerful calculators scientists have estimated that in about a billion years our sun will die, and therefore so will we. So that’s a date to circle in your diaries folks.

The truth is, we’ll probably all perish before then, in an act of our own doing, whether that will be through climate change, or something even more sinister.

Writer and director Sam Esmail, obviously in a cheery mood, has created one such outcome for his second outing as a features director.

boom reviews Leave the World Behind
We know you're both passionate about this project, which is why we'd love you to do it for free.

Just because they haven’t in a while, Amanda decides to surprise hubby Clay (Ethan Hawke), and their two kids Archie (Charlie Evans) and Rose (Farrah Mackenzie) with a break in the country.

It’s a swish property that even has a pool, far enough away from the city to make it feel like holiday.

They decide to make a trip to the local beach, but are forced to return after a strange event occurs. Turns out it won’t be the last.

Just as they’re getting ready for bed, there’s a knock at the door, with a well dressed man and a young woman standing there. The man says that he’s G.H Scott (Mahershala Ali), the owner of this particular property, with is daughter Ruth (Myha’la).

Amanda is already on the back foot, finding his story of why they are there a little on the flimsy side. He asks a peculiar question, would it be OK if they stayed the night? The city has seen a large blackout, that has affected phone and TV signals, and he felt that perhaps being home would be the safest place for himself and his daughter. Thankfully for them, Clay is a little more understanding, and agrees to it, despite Amanda’s obvious disapproval.

The next day brings with it even more confusion, as something definitely appears to be happening to the world around them, but what?

boom reviews Leave the World Behind
To your Oscars...

As the creator of the TV show Mr Robot, the world of conspiracy theories and cyber-hacking are very much part of Esmail’s wheelhouse, which he expands on here with this story based on Rumaan’s Alam novel of the same name.

Certainly the director has grown in confidence since his directorial debut, 2014’s Comet; he’s in somewhat of a playful mood, using a variety of shots and angles, which help unnerve the audience even more. It’s a style that’s like Hitchcock squished with M. Night Shyamalan, with a dash of Jordon Peele added for extra measure, making the result pleasingly cinematic.

And although it’s dealing with something threatening on a global scale, it’s told in a very insular manner, through the eyes of these six characters. Its running time, which may be just a tad on the long side (2hr18), does allow Esmail to develop his characters: such as Amanda being very protective of her family, for instance, and doesn’t hold anyone outside of it which much faith; G.H seems to know a fair amount of what’s going on, but also feels as if he’s holding something back; and the youngest member of the group Rose only has one real pressing concern with what’s going on, and that’ how to watch the very last episode of Friends on her tablet.

It’s impeccably written and sharply observed, offering an interesting take on how a group of people would handle a catastrophe in the making.

The cast is superb, with Roberts and Hawke making a great on screen couple, and Ali seemingly effortlessly breezing through the whole thing, which is probably what being a two time Oscar winner gives you.

Considering this is only Esmail’s second feature behind the camera, he has created a genuinely interesting film; sure his techniques may be a little over the top at times, but he always keeps it interesting, especially with a finale that seemingly borrows the black humour from Kubrick’s 1964 classic Dr Strangelove.

Esmail taps into the ever present mood of paranoia and mistrust, with a clever piece of social commentary/propaganda, depending on what side of the fence you lean, featuring an impressive cast that manages to be both intriguing and highly entertaining.

we give this four out of five