Leave the World Behind

What would you do without your cell phone? Could you get by without the internet? How would you conduct yourself in a worldwide crisis? What if you weren’t able to find out what happened to Ross and Rachel at the end of Friends?

Though none are answered, these questions, and more, are meticulously probed in Leave the World Behind, a damning depiction of the modern world teetering on the edge of chaos. This well-crafted movie from Sam Esmail (TV’s Mr. Robot) who directs and adapts from the novel of the same name by Rumaan Alam, doesn’t just offer disheartening disaster sequences, it is also a thought-provoking journey into the complexities of our contemporary existence; the type of film we don’t get enough of these days.

"a damning depiction of the modern world teetering on the edge of chaos"

As the film opens, we meet overworked couple Amanda (Julia Roberts) and husband Clay (Ethan Hawke), who book an Airbnb weekend getaway on Long Island to escape the hustle and bustle of the city with their two children, Archie (newcomer Charlie Evans) and Rose (Farrah Mackenzie, Logan Lucky).

The house is lavishly appointed with updated furnishings, fast wi-fi, a pool for the kids, and a stunning view of New York City in the distance. The perfect place for a staycay, right? Nope. Esmail’s threatening tone and razor-sharp use of suspense and anticipation tells us this is going to be the weekend from hell.

Things begin to go a bit sideways on night one when a knock at their door reveals a couple of strangers – G.H. (Mahershala Ali), and Ruth (Myha’la, TV’s Industry) bearing bad news about a mysterious blackout in the city and seeking refuge in the home they claim is theirs. With no internet, no TV news, and no identification, it’s impossible to verify who these two strangers are and if they truly do own the house.Leave the World Behind

But being an advertising exec whose talents lie in her ability to evaluate people, Amanda is reluctant to believe the man could own a home like this. Husband Clay is somewhat repulsed by his wife’s stereotype-tinged thoughts, but as the outside crisis continues to brew, trust and hope become the hapless victims of the need to simply move forward and plan their next step towards survival. This division between trust and the struggle to survive during an unknown crisis is brilliantly illustrated by Esmail throughout the film and represents one of his biggest successes. It’s a difficult task to pull off such a strong buy in from jaded fans of disaster movies, but it works to perfection in this social thriller masquerading as a disaster film.

Leave the World Behind is also elevated by the performances of its stellar cast, particularly from Roberts, Hawke, and a brief role by Kevin Bacon as a local prepper whose interactions with Clay and G.H. are nothing short of extraordinary. But make no mistake, this entire thing is driven by Esmail’s brilliant script and looming atmosphere. His subtext of uncertainty echoes the constant state of flux in our current society. As the film’s characters navigate the horror of the cyber attack, a palpable sense of disorientation and anticipation lingers throughout.

Leave the World Behind’s absence of a clear hero and moral lessons make it an interesting, and extremely successful departure from conventional disaster films. It challenges viewers to confront the complexities of modern society, while leaving us with more questions than answers. As a result, the movie succeeds in delivering a powerful and thought-provoking dilemma that resonates long after the credits roll.

Leave the World Behind is now playing on Netflix.

4/5 stars

Film Details

Leave the World Behind

MPAA Rating: R.
138 mins
: Sam Esmail
Sam Esmail
Julia Roberts; Mahershala Ali; Ethan Hawke
: Disaster | Thriller
There's no going back to normal.
Memorable Movie Quote: "We made a lot of enemies around the world. Maybe all this means is a few of 'em teamed up."
Official Site: https://www.netflix.com/title/81314956/
Release Date:
December 8, 2023
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:

Synopsis: A family's getaway to a luxurious rental home takes an ominous turn when a cyberattack knocks out their devices — and two strangers appear at their door.


Leave the World Behind