Movie Review: Leave The World Behind (Esmail, 2023)

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Movie: Leave The World Behind

Production Companies: Esmail Corp, Red Om Films, Higher Ground Productions
Director: Sam Esmail

Producers: Sam Esmail, Chad Hamilton, Julia Roberts, Lisa Gillan, Marisa Yeres Gill

Scriptwriter: Sam Esmail

Main Cast: Julia Roberts, Mahershala Ali, Ethan Hawke, Myha’la, Kevin Bacon

Release Date: November 22nd 2023

Running Time: 141 minutes

Certificate: 15


Well damn that was an absolute mindf**k. And I mean that in the best possible way. Despite moving as quick as a glacier at points, Sam Esmail’s adaptation of Rumann Alam’s 2020 novel is still a blast to watch, mostly because of the cinematography and the performances of its heavily stacked A-List cast. Honestly, it’s just nice to see Mahershala Ali actually star in a film while Blade continues to toil in development hell… Anyway, let’s get into my review of Esmail’s latest slowburner, after the success of Mr Robot.


Leave The World Behind, as mentioned above, is adapted from the 2020 novel of the same name and follows Amanda (Roberts) as she whisks her family, made up of husband Clay (Hawke) and their kids Archie and Rose, on an impromptu vacation to Long Island. However, once there strange occurrences start to happen, like G.H Scott (Ali) and his daughter Ruth (Myhal’la) turning up at their door unannounced. From there, things only deteriorate further with Archie’s impromptu dentistry, strange deer sightings and all technology being knocked out. Reluctantly, both families are forced to work together in order to work out just what could have brought on the apocalypse the world is facing but could one family be hiding a dark secret?


Cinematography in Leave The World Behind

I mean why else to start than a shout out to Leave The World Behind’s cinematographer: Tod Campbell? Simply put, there’s some very fun sequences from a cinematographic perspective. Take the repeated motif of the slow pan of the camera from one group of characters to the other. A great example of this is when G.H Scott and Ruth first arrive at the house. Here, the camera pans up from them in the basement to Amanda and Clay in the upper bedroom. This gives the impression of interconnectivity and shows how both of these families’s stories are interwoven with each other.

Also, more examples of repeated motifs in Campbell’s cinematography are the slow rotation of the camera. The use of this seems to be to suggest that the character’s world is turning upside down. Or into a live action Fallout game if the ending is correct… Anyway, other than these two examples, the cinematography is just really smooth and because of the use of deep focus it forces the audience to try and notice small details in the background which works in tandem with the writing and pacing but I’ll elaborate on that later…

Writing and Pacing in Leave The World Behind

Speaking of the writing and pacing, Esmail mostly knocks it out of the park with a very similar slow burn pace to the phenomenal Mr Robot. This slower, more deliberate pace is clearly a ploy to fully flesh out the characters as so often films set in the apocalypse have less character development than your average Michael Bay film. Also, it allows for the audience to make their own assumptions, like how you could almost read racial subtext into G.H and Amanda’s first encounter, as well as just keeping the answers out of reach.

That latter point is especially true as for the longest time, Esmail refrains from using Kevin Bacon’s Danny which implies he has a huge role in the events that are transpiring. Though the lack of appearances were most likely because Bacon was filming another EE commercial…. Anyway, all of the writing pays off in the end with a mostly satisfying reveal from G.H and a very funny payoff to a running gag as well. Overall, a very solid and well paced film at times, even if the film occasionally has less pace than Jordan Henderson…..


To summarise Leave The World Behind, this is a very solid film with good performances, pacing and writing which when aided by cinematography produce a good film about surviving the apocalypse. Also, it helps that there’s some very good performances, especially from Ali and Hawke, on the side. My only complaint is the film could probably have left about 20 minutes on the cutting room floor…..

Overall Rating: 6.5/10 – Okay

Target Audience: 15+
Content Warning:
Mild Violence and Gore, Mild Sex and Nudity, Moderate Profanity, Mild Alcohol, Drugs and Smoking, Mild Frightening and Intense Scenes

Recommendation: Yes