Leave the World Behind Movie Review: Unsettling and Dazzling Psychological Thriller


Sam Esmail’s “Leave the World Behind” is a gripping and thought-provoking psychological thriller that masterfully translates Rumaan Alam’s novel to the screen. Esmail, known for his work on “Mr. Robot,” takes the helm as writer, director, and producer, delivering a film that explores the fragility of societal structures when faced with an unknown and impending crisis.

The ensemble cast, led by Julia Roberts, Mahershala Ali, and Ethan Hawke, delivers stellar performances that anchor the film’s tension-filled narrative. Roberts, in the role of Amanda Sandford, portrays a mother caught in the midst of an escalating crisis during a family vacation on Long Island. Ali, as G.H. Scott, and Hawke, as Clay Sandford, effectively convey the complexity of their characters as the threat looms larger.


The film’s premise, revolving around a mysterious blackout and the intrusion of two strangers, sets the stage for a psychological rollercoaster. As the families grapple with the uncertainty and the outside world descends into chaos, “Leave the World Behind” becomes a riveting exploration of human nature under extreme pressure.

Esmail’s direction ensures a palpable sense of unease from the very beginning, as the strangers, played by Myha’la and Kevin Bacon, disrupt the tranquility of the Sandford family vacation. The tension builds steadily, creating an atmosphere of suspense that lingers throughout the film. The cinematography and use of visuals contribute to the overall sense of impending doom, capturing the isolation and vulnerability of the characters in a collapsing world.

Julia Roberts delivers a standout performance as Amanda, conveying a mother’s protective instincts and the internal conflict that arises when faced with the unknown. Mahershala Ali brings depth to his role as G.H. Scott, and Ethan Hawke’s portrayal of Clay Sandford adds layers to the family dynamics under duress. Myha’la’s performance as Ruth Scott is both haunting and powerful, capturing the emotional toll of the crisis.

Leave the World Behind Movie Review: Unsettling and Dazzling Psychological Thriller

The film’s strength lies in its ability to blend the psychological thriller elements with social commentary. As the families grapple with the impending crisis, societal norms and hierarchies begin to unravel. Esmail explores themes of trust, fear, and the breakdown of communication in the face of an existential threat, creating a narrative that resonates beyond the confines of the thriller genre.

The screenplay, adapted from Alam’s novel, maintains a tight grip on the audience’s attention, navigating the complexities of the plot with precision. The dialogue is sharp, revealing the characters’ vulnerabilities and fears, adding depth to their interactions. Esmail skillfully builds suspense through a combination of eerie atmospheric elements and the characters’ psychological unraveling.

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The film’s conclusion is both satisfying and open-ended, leaving room for interpretation and discussion. Esmail doesn’t provide easy answers, allowing viewers to grapple with the ambiguity of the situation and its implications. This deliberate choice adds an extra layer of complexity to the film, encouraging audience engagement beyond the screen.

“Leave the World Behind” is not just a thriller; it’s a reflection on the fragility of societal structures and the human psyche when faced with an existential threat. Esmail’s direction, coupled with the exceptional performances of the cast, elevates the film beyond the standard conventions of the genre. It invites viewers to contemplate their own reactions in the face of uncertainty and prompts reflection on the interconnectedness of humanity.

In conclusion, “Leave the World Behind” is a compelling and thought-provoking psychological thriller that successfully captures the essence of Alam’s novel. Sam Esmail’s directorial prowess, combined with the outstanding performances of the cast, makes this film a standout addition to the genre. As tensions rise and the world around the characters collapses, “Leave the World Behind” offers an unsettling yet captivating exploration of human nature in the face of the unknown.


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