Dir. Brandon Cronenberg (2023)
While vacationing on the lavish island of La Tolqa, a couple is involved in a fatal accident that reveals the island is more bizarre and hedonistic than they thought.
Brandon was listening when his father was talking about film, apparently. There are many filmmakers with outlandish, fresh ideas who desire to push the boundaries of what has been put on film before. Very few make it big, and even fewer are able to make those ghastly and peculiar thoughts bouncing around their heads into coherent narratives on film. Brandon Cronenberg is apparently one of the few, because Infinity Pool manages to somehow tell a complete story while pushing the limits of science fiction and horror where they've never gone before.
Novelist James Foster (Alexander Skarsgård) has traveled with his wife Em (Cleopatra Coleman) to the island of La Tolqa, a resort for the exhorbitantly wealthy in an attempt to rid himself of the writer's block preventing his further ascension as an author. While there, the Fosters run into another couple, Gabi (Mia Goth) and Alban (Jalil Lespert), who take them on an excursion outside the barbed wire fence of the resort that eventually ends in the unintentional vehicular homicide of a local villager. The price must be paid, of course, but this particular island has a unique arrangement, one in which the rich can pay for a double to be made of their bodies, complete with intact memories of their lives and crimes, to be executed in their stead.
What follows is a discussion on affluenza and individuality, speaking to what makes us human as well as the traits inside us all that make us not. The philosophy of the film, one that is at once infinitely broad like the film's namesake swimmer's retreat and shallow enough to be largely understood by the audience, ultimately limits its effectiveness. It is not philosophy on display, however, rather the budding auteur's attempt to continue to make a name for himself by delivering a bizarre and mind-bending hallucination on film.
Exhilarating and dazzling cinematography is the star of the show here, executed to near perfection by DP Karim Hussain. Infinity Pool also delivers unbelievable (and unhinged) performances from Skarsgård and Goth, serving as increasingly sociopathic stand-ins for the wealthiest of society. Cronenberg's message is as subtle as a sledgehammer to the face, but sometimes it feels necessary in order to get his point across. Whether it required such icky imagery, however, is in the eye of the beholder.
Infinity Pool speaks of the absolution of the sins of the rich, the fact that anyone with near-infinite amounts of money can get away with equally innumerable crimes. It also whispers of the differentiation of doubles, perhaps insisting, in its way, that Brandon should not be defined by the legacy of his famous father. As a filmmaker who has burst onto the scene with a trio of films with increasing eccentricity, the comparisons may be apt but they are not definite. Brandon Cronenberg is a force unto himself, a new name in horror that may well become the equal to his forebearer. Like his father, however, he is an acquired taste, one that won't be appreciated by those with milder tastes for the genre. While that is a shame, it is also inevitable, a price to be paid for the undeniable ingenuity that comes with being unconventional.
Who this movie is for: Bizarre horror fans, Science fiction lovers, Dolly the sheep
Bottom line: Infinity Pool is weird, and as much as it helps to serves as a differentiator between Brandon and his father, it's unlikely that folks who don't enjoy David Cronenberg will enjoy this one. That said, it's brilliant horror, believable science fiction, and contains a message against the wealthy that feels ever more relevant in today's world. It's also a beautifully shot film filled with disturbing imagery, helping to further cement Brandon and his cinematographer Karim Hussain as two of the newest and most innovative faces in horror. It's well worth a watch, and it's streaming on Hulu right now.