Savage Social Commentary Bubbles Up in Brutal and Captivating Infinity Pool (2023)
Title: Infinity Pool
First Non-Festival Release: January 27, 2023 (Theatrical Release)
Director: Brandon Cronenberg
Writer: Brandon Cronenberg
Runtime: 117 Minutes
Starring: Alexander Skarsgärd, Mia Goth, Cleopatra Coleman
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Every country has their own laws for maintaining order and encouraging specific behaviors based on cultural morality and political expedience. While laws vary between countries, typically they are similar enough to where one can reasonably guess what is and isn’t permissible. Generally speaking, the wealthy find ways to eschew responsibility whenever possible.
The island nation of La Tolqua is one such place where this remains true. James (Alexander Skarsgärd) discovers how far corruption and greed reach when he kills a pedestrian during a nighttime car ride after a drunken day at the beach with his wife Em (Cleopatra Coleman) and two other resort members they met earlier that day: Gabi (Mia Goth) and her husband Alban (Jalil Lespert). The next morning, he is arrested and learns what happens to people like him when they break the law in La Tolqua.
Slick, audacious horror Infinity Pool earns its twisted reputation through its bonkers plot and unhinged performances.
Ingenious in concept, Infinity Pool plays out like a sick, twisted nightmare that seems not too far out of reach. Starting out slow, the story of Infinity Pool unfurls like many standard horror films. The protagonists meet an eccentric duo who promises to deviate from their normal play and get them outside the confines of the restrictive and dull resort. Things get complicated after their beach day full of debauchery ends in tragedy, which leads to James arrest the following morning.
Here is where Infinity Pool flexes its storytelling muscles: James learns the consequences of his actions are unusual thanks to some quirks in La Tolqua’s legal system. In La Tolqua, most crimes are punishable only with the most severe means. From murder to drug use to the profane, their system demands blood be shed for deviating outside of their rules. They do give leeway to their wealthy tourists to participate in an ancient cultural rite that allows them to carry out whatever heinous act comes to their mind, so long as someone close to home takes the blame as proxy. To say more would venture into spoilers, but Infinity Pool ensures that its messages and themes of identity mix in poetically with its denouncement of rich ennui.
Searing commentary on the destructive nature of the rich and bored, Infinity Pool uses its literal depiction of the 1% escaping consequences as a broader indignation of a culture that allows it. By finding a way to put forth a proxy to accept punishment for their crimes, the rich use La Tolqua as their playground. Taking dangerous hallucinogens, having gluttonous orgies, and embarking on tours of panic and destruction, they are limitless in their quest for fulfillment and pleasure. Knowing that their money will buy their safety no matter the crime or victim, their incentives for behaving like those who cannot afford legal cushion evaporates. While La Tolqua’s system is extreme and obscene, is it really that different from what reality is for many now?
James’s journey is both physical and mental. After experiencing the process, he has torn himself apart both literally and figuratively by what he has done. He struggles to accept the terrible things he has done but cannot verbalize his feelings, as no one understands or cares. This is not highlighted more clearly than in the final moments he spends with his newfound “friends” on the bus and at the airport. Driven to this state by Gabi’s insistence, he is left with no way to process and thus trapped in a state of tortured acceptance. Drugs, sex, and the unquenchable pursuit of destruction force James to confront the monster he has become. It also begs the question, was he always this way and did his new friends coax out the real him into the light?
Propelled by powerful performances, Infinity Pool stays grounded thanks to the bold choices of its cast. Alexander Skarsgärd’s James is a fascinating everyman that slowly deconstructs over the course of two hours. His cowardice and desire to be accepted, to be seen, is more powerful than his conscience. Skarsgärd manages to imbue a sense of relatability to James’s quest for belonging while not shying away from the elements that make him vile. Mia Goth lets her hair down even more than what thought possible. Her take on Gabi slowly gets more and more unhinged before she both physically and vocally commands the screen with what amounts to a presence more terrifying than any creature or monster.
Looking beyond its great story and performances, Infinity Pool is simply an engaging and memorable experience. Stylistic camerawork and editing capture some dizzying sequences of body horror and hallucinations that help viewers understand the disorienting nature of the horror within La Tolqua. Dripping with blood, goo, and other viscera, Infinity Pool immerses viewers into a film unlike many others that have them questioning what bizarre thing will come across screen next. Of course, its beautiful resort setting adds to the confusion. How can somewhere so beautiful be so dangerous?
It will be quite difficult to leave a showing of Infinity Pool and not have a million thoughts, questions, and theories on what just happened. Its intoxicating story and enthralling performances make it not only one of the best sci-fi horror films of the year, but of the new decade. Brandon Cronenberg has proved to get consistently better with each thought-provoking and imaginative sc-fi horror experience he creates. Hopefully, the success of Infinity Pool continues to show Hollywood that he is among the future stars of the genre and rewards him correctly. Read no more and take this reviewer’s advice: don’t put off taking a dip into Infinity Pool any longer than is necessary.
Overall Score? 9/10