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Film: Infinity Pool
Director: Brandon Cronenberg
Writer: Brandon Cronenberg
Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Mia Goth and Cleopatra Coleman
This is a movie that when I saw the poster and a bit of the trailer, I was in. What pulled my interest most was that it featured Alexander Skarsgård and Mia Goth. Both are actors that I’ll watch most everything they do now, especially the latter. I didn’t even realize that this was the newest from Brandon Cronenberg until the looking at the showtimes for the Gateway Film Center to work into my schedule. I’ve also given this a second watch on streaming on Hulu.
Synopsis: James (Skarsgård) and Em Foster (Cleopatra Coleman) are enjoying an all-inclusive beach vacation in the fictional island of La Tolqa, when a fatal accident exposes the resort’s perverse subculture of hedonistic tourism, reckless violence and surreal horrors.
We start this in the bedroom of our couple from the synopsis. The blackout curtains are drawn. There was a misunderstanding though when James wants to get breakfast and Em thought he said something different. This couple is married, but there is tension. James is a writer. He wrote one book that had mixed reviews and hasn’t been able to write another. Em is the daughter of the publishing house so she is the one keeping them afloat.
Things take a turn when this couple meets another at this resort. Gabi (Goth) claims to be a big fan of James and his book. She asks about when the next one will come out. She and her husband, Alban (Jalil Lespert), invites him along with Em out to dinner. James loves that they stroke his ego and wants them to go on a picnic the next day as well. Em isn’t as thrilled but goes along anyways.
They’re breaking the rules by leaving the compound. They borrow a man’s car who works there. They have a good time, but we see the first signs that there is something not quite right. Gabi comes on to James, masturbating him. When they go to call it a night, the tragedy from the synopsis strikes. James and Em are shaken. They want to call the police. The other couple give the cold, hard reality of being in a 3rd world country. Instead, they return like nothing happened.
The police do find out and it changes everything. This island has a different type of justice. Those with money are treated different. This plunges James into a new world. He is hesitant, but once he gives into the hedonistic pleasures, it changes him. It is also more than he bargained for.
That is where I’ll leave my recap and introduction to the characters. Where I want to shift then is that I’m glad that I came into this one blind. I figured seeing Cronenberg’s name attached that this would be body horror. We do get that, there is much more going on underneath the surface though. The last thought for this opening paragraph would be that this would make an intriguing double feature with Crash from Brandon’s father David.
From there, where I want to start is that I think we get an interesting commentary. Early into this movie there is a comment made by Em that James married rich. That is how they’re able to afford being here. There is a message about Em marrying a man that her father didn’t approve of. She did it in defiance since he’s rich. I think James has feelings for her, but I’d also say that they’re not necessarily right for each other. Gabi uses this to drive a wedge and seduce James. It takes this ordeal to showcase that since she leaves soon after the major incident. There is a reason that James must stay, but I also think he wants to. They just seem to be drifting apart and this enhances that.
Part of that is the lust he feels for Gabi. He is enticed when she says that she’s a big fan. She is also attractive. Having someone like Goth take on this role with how free she can portray her sexuality on the screen is perfect. She also exudes the right amount of crazy. What I also haven’t brought up yet is that Gabi and Alban have a group of friends here. They are rich and power as well. What is interesting is that I took a couple things from them. The first is that they’re treating this poor island nation like their personal playground. Part of that is they’re American. The other is that since they’re rich and they don’t necessarily believe that the rules apply to them. I think both are commentaries this is conveying.
Now I’m going to do a brief spoiler section at the end, so I’m not going to reveal things here. What I will say is that we get body horror, but it is light. It is in this sub-genre in the sense that it is horrible what they’re doing and not looking at these individuals as humans. The only ones who do are Em and James. The latter seems to lose this as things go on and he gets sucked deeper into this group.
I do need to go to a negative here. I’m in a group chat where people were talking about their thoughts. When I left the theater, I wasn’t fully sure what the message was here outside of what I’ve laid out. They echoed the same things there. I think that the message is muddled. This is a commentary on the rich and how we take advantage of other countries. Having now rewatched this, I don’t think it is as confusing. James has been changed by what he has gone through. I don’t think he can return to his normal life. I even would go as far to say that it broke him. He partook in pleasures that are beyond him.
There isn’t anything to go into more there so let me go to the acting. I thought that Goth was amazing here. That is starting to go without saying. I don’t think it’s her best performance, but I love how she can use her sexuality to lure in James before showing how crazy she is. She is beautiful as well. Skarsgård is also good. He’s another actor that is always solid to me. I would say that he’s a representation of the audience. He’s confused and doesn’t know who to believe just like we are. I thought that Coleman was also good. What I like about her is that she is the voice of reason. She wants to do the right thing and have her husband follow that, but he’s pulled in by this other group. With that I’d say that Lespert, Amanda Brugel, John Ralston, Caroline Boulton and Jeff Ricketts are good as that crew. I liked that get Thomas Kretschmann here as Detective Thresh. I’m always a fan of him. The acting here is good across the board. I didn’t have any issues with any performance.
All that is left to go into would be the filmmaking. I think that the cinematography is great here. We get some interesting shots while the world spinning and showing different things upside down. It feels to me like that was done to show that this couple’s lives are getting flipped thanks to their time here. Cronenberg has a look about his movies that I dig. Shifting then to the effects, I think that what we get that is practical is good. There are surreal things done which pulls in once again how it is shot. Those are trippy and at first, I didn’t think it fit. It is with a rewatch that we are seeing changes through these surreal sequences. There was CGI as well. I don’t remember any of that not looking good so no issues there. Other than that, would be the soundtrack. I thought that fit what was needed here. Goth’s voice gets quite eerie when she snaps and I did want to commend her once more.
In conclusion, I’m hearing people love this and others not so much. I thought that there are good things here. The acting is great. The underlying issues are as well that are quite relevant and something that happens regularly. This movie looks great, but it runs too long. I also don’t know if it sticks the landing completely. I’m still positive on this though. Cronenberg is three for three with me and his movies. This has solidified itself for me. I think it might be his best made film. I’m not sure I like it as well as his other two though. That’s not to say that this isn’t good though.
My Rating: 8 out of 10
To break this down further, the event that lands Em and James in jail is that he hits a man while driving back to the resort. They want to call the police where Gabi disagrees. She makes a good point. This isn’t the US. She states that they women will be raped and that the men will be beaten. It is doom and gloom. It is decided to go back and pretend nothing happened.
The police then show up. It appears they were ratted out. James and Em are separated. It is then that James meets with Detective Thresh. This is where the odd parts of the movie slip in. What they did is punishable by death. Since they have money, they’re allowing James to be cloned and that copy will take the punishment. Em is upset that James would just agree to this.
We then realize that Gabi and her friends have all had the same punishment happen. They’ve embraced it in a different way where they continuous commit crimes so they go through this many times. The police are okay since they’re getting paid. This is where I can see the commentary about not accepting consequences. Someone else is taking the punishment, in this case their clones.
Something else that popped into my head is what about the clones that are being killed. I get that they haven’t been alive long. They do retain the memories of the individual. That is required for the punishment to mean something. It made me feel bad for them. They are still people. Dr. Modon (Ralston), at least I think he brought it up, wonders if he is himself or a clone that was put in his place. I wondered that too. They always seem to black out during the process and it pops in as the punishments start. James gets caught up hanging out with them and sinks into their hedonistic lifestyle where he has it done multiple times too.
Em heads back to the US while James stays back. He must though because he can’t find his passport. He believes it was taken. This group does make him an offer that they will help him get a new one, but there is a task to complete. Things get surreal from here and I did enjoy that part of it. What I don’t know is the commentary we are getting here. Part of it seems like James doesn’t belong with them. He isn’t rich, his wife is. He is doing things that deep down he knows are wrong, but he can’t stop himself. I do think that he tasted the forbidden fruit and wants more. I believe he hid his passport. It gives him a reason to stay.
By the end of this, the group heads home. James is as well and it seems like him and his wife are going to reconcile. He stays back though. He gets rained on by the beach at the resort. I think that they broke him and he can no longer go back to his old life. He experienced too much and now he knows that life isn’t the same. I don’t know if this is as effective as it could be. The second watched helped this to make sure for sure.