Infinity Pool Review

Director: Brandon Cronenberg

Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Mia Goth, Cleopatra Coleman, Jalil Lisper

If 2022 was the year of film’s satirical lambasting of the wealthy and privileged with Triangle of Sadness, Glass Onion, and The Menu, the new thriller Infinity Pool might signal the transition into a darker sensibility. Although there are still several satirical and bitingly funny moments scattered throughout, the scales are heavily tipped now on the side of horror. Body horror, more specifically. But what else would we expect from the son of the man who gave us Videodrome and Dead Ringers? The apple appears to have fallen very close to the tree.

Brandon Cronenberg, son of legendary Canadian director David, made an astonishing debut with his terrifically upsetting 2020 nightmare Possessor. Like most sophomore efforts, his second film, Infinity Pool, is not as effective or masterful, but it certainly further cements his place in cinema as a creator of original, scary, squeamish visions of the future that grab you and don’t let go. He creates a world that encompasses the viewer’s mind and attention to the point where you almost forget that you’re just in a movie and that the hellscape on screen is not reality.

James Foster (Skarsgård) wrote a book six years ago that was a commercial and critical failure. He is now struggling with an intense case of writer’s block and looking for inspiration on a resort vacation with his wife Em (Coleman) on the beaches of a country called Latoka. One day on the beach he meets Gabi (Goth), who flatters James by recognizing him and identifying herself a big fan who loved his first book and anxiously awaits his follow-up. This leads to a dinner where James and Em join Gabi and her husband Alban (Lespert) at a restaurant where it is revealed that Em comes from money which has allowed James to make writing his full-time profession. The way all of the actors play this dinner is perfect, with the tensions bubbling just beneath the surface. Notice the way the air gets sucked out of the room instantly when Em makes her joke at the end of the scene about money.

The next day, the foursome disobey the strict rules of the resort and leave the premises to drive out to a secluded location where they spend the day drinking, cooking, and hanging out in the sun. When they decide to head back to the resort later that night, a series of events quickly take place that set the whole complicated mechanism of the plot into motion. Because the surprising nature of these events and the serpentine path the story follows are a large part of the enjoyment of Infinity Pool, I will not reveal any further plot points. I will just say that the movie is never going where you think it is, and the actors do a fantastic job of making the characters real and their reactions to heightened situations and strange realities relatable.

This film has had a very quick turnaround as it just premiered last week at the Sundance Film Festival and is now hitting theaters just a week later. This pattern similarly follows the rollout of Possessor a few years ago, and other similarities between the two are hard to ignore. While Infinity Pool is not quite as graphic in its violence as the previous film, it is still a very violent and bloody film that may disturb some viewers. I did not object to the violence as it served the story in an appropriate way and didn’t feel extreme or over-the-top to me. But in order to accurately convey the experience of the film, it is difficult to overlook that some parts are not for the easily nauseated.

Not everything about Infinity Pool works. Cronenberg takes a few moments to shower the audience with a fantasia of visual stylistics that often goes on far too long and just play a little self-consciously (and comes with a warning before the movie about the possibility of epileptic seizures). It’s almost as if he thinks these are the kinds of visuals he needs to show us to underline the bizarre alternate reality of the film, but he should just trust his material to garner that effect from the audience. We don’t really need a sex scene that devolves into an extended, overlong kaleidoscope of quick-cut images that are honestly reminiscent of moments from Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling last year.

In the lead roles that demand a lot of them both, Skarsgård and Goth are very impressive and continue to add this to their growing list of interesting and challenging projects. Infinity Pool runs these characters through the wringer, and they manage to make them believable every step of the way, which is no easy feat. Cronenberg seems to have developed his father’s similar sense of direction where no matter how crazy the circumstances, the characters play it straight and do not push for effect. The result is the audience willingly follows into whatever wild reality he concocts. Now, if he can just relax a bit with the visual trickery, we will follow him even further.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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