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Film Review: LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND (2023): Sam Esmail Delivers a Whopping Thriller with a Great Cast and an Explosive Climax

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Mahershala Ali Myhala Herrold Julia Roberts Ethan Hawke Leave The World Behind

Leave the World Behind Review

Leave the World Behind (2023) Film Review, a movie directed by Sam Esmail, written by Rumaan Alam and Sam Esmail and starring Julia Roberts, Mahershala Ali, Ethan Hawke, Myha’la Herrold, Farrah Mackenzie, Charlie Evans, Kevin Bacon, Alexis Rae Forlenza, Vanessa Aspillaga, Josh Drennen, Erica Cho, Orli Gottesman, Pavel Frolov, Jesse King, Kevin Kenny, Alex Barber and Madison Jessica Bennett.

Director Sam Esmail has crafted one of the most frightening and suspenseful movies of the year with the mysterious and compelling new drama, Leave the World Behind. Julia Roberts and Ethan Hawke star as a married couple named Amanda and Clay Sandford. They have two kids, Rose (Farrah Mackenzie) and Archie (Charlie Evans). As the film opens, Amanda has booked a stay at an out-of-the way house in order for her and her family to find a bit of peace in their lives. The movie opens with a scene where Amanda expresses her overall frustration with people and then the over-the-top music played to the opening titles comes on which is as intriguing as the movie that is about to follow.

When Amanda goes shopping at a supermarket to get food for her family, she notices a strange man in the parking lot (Kevin Bacon) loading up an unusual amount of supplies into his vehicle. A scene on a beach also sets the stage for what is to come when a sea vessel comes on to the sand directly from the water, pushing its way through the sand in an unexpected way. The plot is set into motion as the phones and power go out which leads to Amanda and Clay becoming a bit worried. When a man named G.H Scott (Mahershala Ali) arrives with a young girl named Ruth (Myha’la Herrold), G.H. claims he’s the man who has rented her the home they are staying at. G.H. wants to come in with Ruth and will even offer a partial refund for the cost of the stay if Amanda obliges to let them in. Can the well dressed G.H. be trusted?

A Spanish woman warns Clay about a plane that is in the sky that could be of danger but Clay brushes her off. There apparently have been a large number of deaths that have occurred and cars are blocked up on the roads that lead out of town. This is something like “The Twilight Zone,” only more intense and scary because the direction by Esmail makes the situation the movie proposes feel frighteningly real.

Leave the World Behind is definitely not afraid to take risks with its dialogue and its story line. A lot of what makes the movie so entertaining is its unpredictability but there are countless other reasons to see this film. The suspense level the film creates is at an all-time high, especially as the later scenes build tension that is quite simply, nerve-wracking to watch. Archie’s teeth begin to fall out but there’s no local emergency room for the characters in the movie to get to in order to see what’s going on. This is where Kevin Bacon’s character ends up coming back into the picture for a surprising plot revelation.

In one scene, Amanda and G.H. start to get down and dance together in a particular moment that is unforeseeable from the picture’s earlier scenes. Amanda initially doesn’t want to let G.H. into her home but soon, they develop a bond which manifests itself in the scene where they move and groove together. Mahershala Ali and Julia Roberts are two Oscar winners who command the audience’s respect and attention at all times in this movie, leading us further into the character development the movie so richly delivers to its audience.

Ethan Hawke is genuine and his role in this film is expertly handled. He is sort of the one who seems to believe that everything will be OK but when he finally gets brought to Kevin Bacon’s character by G.H., Clay becomes totally convinced that getting out of this dilemma is going to be difficult as it has literally become a living nightmare.

Rose, Amanda and Clay’s daughter, is shown watching the TV show, “Friends” on her tablet at the beginning of the movie and this motif in the movie will come back full circle by the film’s conclusion. Farrah Mackenzie plays Rose well and has some fine moments at the end of the picture. Charlie Evan’s Archie is also well conveyed on-screen as his teeth come out for unbeknownst reasons that scare the hell out of the characters in the movie.

Let’s not forget Myha’la Herrold whose Ruth is smart and unpredictable. Herrold captures this character’s mannerisms perfectly and has some nice line delivery as well at certain points in the picture. Then, there’s Kevin Bacon. As Danny, the strange, know-it-all character, Bacon delivers a quick performance in the movie but it’s a memorable one. Danny provides audiences with the kind of information that one could wish they unheard due to the terrifying concepts this reveal sheds light on. Bacon is intense and it’s one of his most interesting recent roles, for sure.

Sam Esmail creates tension like a roller coaster ride that will take audiences for a loop. This movie was produced by Michelle and Barack Obama’s company, Higher Ground. It’s a production of the highest level of competency, especially because of Esmail’s direction. The audience is taken on a journey in this picture to learn some things that are very uncomfortable within the context of the plot but the characters are always relatable and their actions are always believable.

Roberts hasn’t been this good in some time. Roberts masterfully brings to life her character with precision and plausibility. She, Hawke and Ali and the rest of the cast are like a movie dream team. However, it is the ultimate plot revelations that make Leave the World Behind such a provocative and powerful film. This is one that should not be missed.

Rating: 10/10

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