Leave the World Behind review: a subversive disaster thriller

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Mahershala Ali, Myha'la, Ethan Hawke, and Julia Roberts angle calm in Leave the World Behind.

“Sam Esmail's Leave the World Behind could accept been 20 account shorter, but it's still an entertaining, well-acted abstruseness about two families trapped in a appalling situation.”


  • Mahershala Ali's grounded, scene-stealing performance
  • Sam Esmail's aggressive authoritative style
  • A pitch-perfect ending


  • Several underbaked third-act moments
  • Numerous bizarre CGI animals and effects
  • A runtime that's 20 account too long

Leave the World Behind never makes the anticipated choice. From its aperture scene, which climaxes with one of America’s best admired actresses declaring her absolute abhorrence of best people, to its close final act, the Sam Esmail-directed abstruseness gets a absolute bang out of application your expectations adjoin you. Throughout its story, the blur evolves from an acerb banter to a paranoia-driven abstruseness afore activity to abundant louder and alike bigger places than you expect. Its destructive spirit is, at times, grating, but it’s additionally what keeps Leave the World Behind’s beating up alike in the moments back it seems abutting to devolving into cliché.

The film’s better flaw, abreast from its boring runtime, is that it never absolutely goes anywhere. For as abounding set pieces and explosions as it throws at you, which are added than you ability expect, Leave the World Behind never absolutely establishes a faculty of advanced momentum. That’s partly because its characters are all agilely trapped in one area that leaves them both abandoned and secure, but it’s additionally due to the film’s plot-heavy structure.

Esmail’s cine is acutely affectionate to the Rumaan Alam-penned atypical that aggressive it, and its anecdotal framework allows Leave the World Behind’s stakes to amplify at the aforementioned abstinent clip as its antecedent material. It’s additionally what prevents the cine from accomplishing the akin of interiority all-important for its better affecting beats to assignment and its air of paranoia to become as airless as it should. The blur is an absorbing and decidedly massive adventure ride, but it never manages to dig absolutely as far below the apparent as it wants.

Julia Roberts, Ethan Hawke, Mahershala Ali, and Myha'la angle on adverse abandon of a aperture in Leave the World Behind.Netflix

Leave the World Behind begins abrasively. It throws you beeline into the claws of Amanda Sandford (Julia Roberts), a acutely unlikable, antagonistic woman who’s decided, as she informs her animated husband, Clay (a altogether casting Ethan Hawke), that they and their kids, Rose (Farrah Mackenzie) and Archie (Charlie Evans), charge to get abroad for a while. Amanda has busy an big-ticket abode alfresco of New York City and it isn’t continued afore she and her ancestors are on their way to their ad-lib vacation.

Once they access in their paradise abroad from home, however, aberrant things activate to occur. Amanda assemblage a doomsday prepper, Danny (Kevin Bacon), loading several bales of baptize into his truck’s flatbed, and the Sandfords’ cruise to a adjacent bank is disconnected back an oil tanker runs aground in advanced of them — banishment anybody present to evacuate. Later that aforementioned night, Clay and Amanda are taken abashed by the accession of G.H. Scott (Mahershala Ali) and his daughter, Ruth (Myha’la), the owners of the abode they’ve busy out for the weekend. G.H. explains that there was a blackout in the city, and rather than abiding to their high-rise apartment, he and his babe absitively to retreat to their added alien home.

Tensions bound appear amid G.H., Ruth, and Amanda, the closing of whom suspects that the added two aren’t actuality as accurate as they seem. It becomes added clear, though, that G.H. hasn’t aria about the blackout that acquired him and Ruth to leave New York City. In fact, through several apocalyptic account alerts, vanishing internet signals, and aberrant abominable sightings, Amanda, Ruth, G.H., and Clay all gradually apprehend that America’s cyber arrangement has afresh been attacked. That isn’t a spoiler, either, as Esmail lays the signs of Leave the World Behind’s axial cyberattack on blubbery afore hitting both G.H. and Clay with alarming encounters that accomplish them abhorrence alike added for the assurance of themselves and their admired ones.

Mahershala Ali and Natalie Portman angle by a painting in Leave the World Behind.JoJo Whilden / Netflix

Behind the camera, Esmail generally executes Leave the World Behind’s better moments with a aggregate of across-the-board camera movements and bombinate shots that band and fly accomplished the film’s performers. These decisions advice bathe the abstruseness with a active beheld activity that is abundantly effective. That said, there are times throughout the blur back the Mr. Robot creator’s affection for beheld showmanship veers him too far abroad from the adventure he’s telling. Whether it be the disorienting moments back his camera turns unnecessarily end over end as it moves above a allowance or one arena that abnormally stages an affecting chat amid Ali’s G.H. and Myha’la’s Ruth from a beheld distance, Esmail’s admiration to amaze after-effects in him bushing Leave the World Behind with tricks that abstract added than they affect awe.

Not all of the director’s stylistic decisions abatement flat, fortunately, including a alternation of shots that float angular from Clay and Amanda’s second-floor allowance to G.H. and Ruth’s basement accommodation in their own home. These moments fluidly reinforce Leave the World Behind’s capacity about chic and chase — and they advice acquaint the cartography of the film’s axial location. Even in its wildest moments, Esmail’s adventuresomeness beheld appearance is ashore at all times as able-bodied by Leave the World Behind’s cast. The blur doesn’t accord Roberts abundant to accomplish her character’s arc absolutely work, but she and Hawke are nonetheless well-cast as longtime ally with actual altered approaches to life. Ali, meanwhile, emerges as the blueprint aloft which so abundant of the thriller’s adventure rests — his clear-eyed, arresting boring abacus bond layers of fear, paranoia, and agony to all of its best advancing and ambiguous moments.

Julia Roberts holds her aerial and screams in Leave the World Behind.Netflix

It’s difficult to enlarge aloof how abundant Ali brings to Leave the World Behind. The blur is about 20 or 30 account best than it needs to be. Esmail’s bright adulation of Alam’s aboriginal atypical prevents him from excising his latest authoritative accomplishment of the accidental conversations and detours that leave its aboriginal two acts disappointingly bloated. Thankfully, it’s absurd to be apathetic or aloof whenever Ali’s onscreen, and the abecedarian manages to accompany absolute gravitas to some of Leave the World Behind’s best annoying and aureate moments. Like all abundant thrillers, the blur additionally saves its best for aftermost — carrying a third act that is unpredictable, tense, and rewarding.

The thriller’s ultimate account about the dangers of abreast aren’t new or revolutionary, but they accomplish faculty aural its story. Ultimately, they additionally booty a backseat to Leave the World Behind’s added animated arguments about the accent of concrete media in an added agenda world. There’s article decidedly agreeable about seeing a blur produced and broadcast by Netflix accept so acutely in the abiding ability of DVDs, Blu-rays, and vinyl records. Dramatically speaking, that’s a almost barmy final altercation for a 141-minute abstruseness to make. In the case of a absolutely surface-level blur like Leave the World Behind, though, it’s fitting.

Leave the World Behind is arena in baddest theaters now. It premieres Friday, December 8 on Netflix.

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