Written and Directed by Brandon Cronenberg.
Starring Alexander Skarsgård, Mia Goth, Cleopatra Coleman, Thomas Kretschmann, Amanda Brugel, John Ralston, Caroline Boulton, Jeff Ricketts, Jalil Lespert, and Adam Boncz.
James and Em Foster 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.
Everyone knows that if someone is rich, they tend to get off easy, sometimes even for serious crimes. Brandon Cronenberg takes this concept to a new twisted level with Infinity Pool, where a fictional island’s law enforcement with regressive worldviews and harsh policies will allow an offender to pay a sum of money to have a clone constructed of themselves, which will then be executed for whatever the crime might be.
James Foster (a defeated Alexander Skarsgård) and his wife Em (Cleopatra Coleman) are vacationing there, with the former (who married into wealth) attempting to overcome writer’s block a little over half a decade following the release of his first book. It’s never made clear whether or not the novel was a success, but he does have one fan in recent horror queen Mia Goth’s Gabi. She is also on vacation with her partner Alban (Jalil Lespert) and instantly recognizes him, expressing herself as a fan eagerly awaiting his next work.
Naturally, this rejuvenates some life within James, as he, without hesitation, except an invitation to dinner at a Chinese restaurant in town that he had previously told his wife he wasn’t interested in going to that night. It’s the film’s first crack at exploring the divide between lover and sycophant and how one might potentially find the former boring while praying deep down inside to develop some cult following to receive more shallow but stimulating worship.
James’ infatuation with Gabi is only accentuated by her willingness to jerk him off while taking a leak in the woods, something that comes as a surprise, further fueling corruption by way of possible cultural relevance and a sense of importance.
It’s also not long before James, while lost in his mind, accidentally creates a disastrous hit-and-run murder scene, putting everyone in danger of execution. Up until this point, Infinity Pool is a relatively straightforward thriller, but once James gets a taste of not just immortality but a front-row seat to a grisly scene (in this country, the eldest son of the murdered gets to execute the killer, which happens to be a child in this case) that cements his privileged status as someone that can get away with anything.
It’s almost akin to a warped sense of videogame logic followed through Cronenberg horror and “damn the wealthy elites to hell” social commentary; if you could do anything with no repercussions other than watching your clone executed, why not live a life of debauchery, hedonism, and excess?
From there, Infinity Pool takes a psychedelic, violently hallucinogenic turn filled with colorfully transfixing imagery and every bodily fluid imaginable (although I believe there are 30 seconds removed from theatrical showings to receive an R rating), where each character is not necessarily who they seem to be.
The most drastic shift in personality here comes from Gabi, who cranks up her egging on James to embrace something more primal and dominant she believes is resting dormant inside him, but not without taunting and humiliating him every step. Mia Goth is again in full-on psychopath mode, making the most of every line and her idiosyncratic British accent. There is a sadistic pleasure in witnessing these disturbing BDSM- adjacent horror antics unfold as James battles a moral crisis where becoming someone he is not sure he wants to become. But it feels so fucking good, so how can he resist?
The ideas presented in Infinity Pool put a refreshingly disturbing twist on “eat the rich” satires, but it also needs to be said that while the themes presented linger in the mind, the film itself is sometimes frustratingly paced or gets lost in repetitive stretches. Still, the climactic segment provides several WTF moments, ranging from excessively gory to depraved kinkiness. Meanwhile, it’s a pleasure to see Alexander Skarsgård continuously evolve as an actor, here trading smolder for something sad and almost pathetic.
However, Mia Goth’s performance is bonkers enough to carry Infinity Pool through its shortcomings; she and Brandon Cronenberg are a deranged duo that brings out the craziest in each other.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at [email protected]
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