News of the looming apocalypse arrives with a nighttime rap at the door in this all-star thriller from writer-director Sam Esmail, who proved himself a master of depicting an unraveling society in Mr. Robot.
Upwardly mobile Brooklynite Amanda Sandford (Julia Roberts, who starred in Esmail’s government-conspiracy drama Homecoming) is vacationing at a luxurious Long Island rental house — advertised as a place to “leave the world behind” — with her husband Clay (Ethan Hawke) and their teenagers Archie (Charlie Evans) and Rose (Farrah Mackenzie) when the ominous knock cracks their brie-and-cashmere cocoon.
Outside are two strangers, financier G.H. Scott (Mahershala Ali) and his daughter Ruth (Myha’la). They claim to own the rental and ask for refuge, explaining they can’t return to their Manhattan home because of a mysterious massive cyberattack.
Amanda reluctantly lets them in, and the households uneasily hunker down together as the disaster quickly grows clearer and more terrifying. Phones and TVs fail. Windows crack inexplicably. Huge ships start heading in toward shore. But in the house, tensions still swirl around race, class, and family.
Esmail has said it was that friction that drew him to Rumaan Alam’s bestselling 2020 novel in the first place. “The [characters] seemed authentic, a true product of modern society. There was something about the way they clashed with each other in this near-apocalyptic setting that resonated.”
As the massive scale of the catastrophe grows apparent, tensions rise further. But don’t assume the families will find a savior when G.H. reaches out to his contractor, Danny (Kevin Bacon), a local who has been prepping for the worst. Even if Danny can help, there is an impending sense that a standard Hollywood ending may be elusive. As G.H. tells Amanda, “There is no going back to normal.”
Leave the World Behind, Premieres Friday, December 8, Netflix
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