Adapted from Rumaan Alam’s acclaimed novel, the movie is set against an end-of-days disaster in which technology — Wi-Fi, TV, phones, internet — has gone silent due to a cyberattack and there’s been a massive blackout.
Well-to-do Amanda (a tart Julia Roberts) and her Atlantic magazine-quoting husband Clay (a hangdog Ethan Hawke) must work with the even-more-well-off G.H. (a calmly sophisticated Mahershala Ali) and his savvy daughter Ruth, (a superb Myha’la). The racial divide easily swamps their joint class affiliation.
Also along for the disaster are Amanda and Clay’s children, a Friends-obsessed daughter (a soulful Farrah Mackenzie, who even wears her hair in a “Rachel” ‘do) and her older, slightly bratty 16-year-old brother (a brooding Charlie Evans).
It’s a story brilliantly adapted and directed by Sam Esmail, showrunner of Mr. Robot, who has made Leave the World Behind into a homage of Alfred Hitchcock, complete with the image of a man trying to outrun a crashing plane and using the master’s discordant loud music. Esmail, who manages to make a group of deer appear sinister, even makes a Hitchcockian cameo as a corpse on a beach.
The director paces the deepening dread flawlessly and there are visual delights throughout, like when the family starts off on their adventure with their car exiting at “Point Comfort.” The camera often swirls and soars through glass cracks or holes in roofs like an uneasy bird, or parks itself at strange angles.