Leave the World Behind Movie Review: Sam Esmail Cosplays as M. Night Shyamalan

Leave the World Behind is Directed by Sam Esmail and Stars Julia Roberts, Ethan Hawke and Mahershala Ali

Leave the World Behind movie review
Leave the World Behind

Sam Esmail, renowned for his work on Mr. Robot, returns to feature filmmaking with Leave the World Behind, a star-studded drama delivered straight to Netflix that operates as an apocalyptic mystery thriller. Boasting a cast of A-listers like Julia Roberts, Ethan Hawke, Mahershala Ali, and the promising up-and-comer Myha’la, the film carries the weight of its cast’s reputation but, unfortunately, doesn’t quite live up to expectations.

The narrative revolves around Amanda Sanford (Julia Roberts), a misanthropic woman who impulsively decides to take her family on an unplanned vacation to a rented house on Long Island. As the story unfolds, peculiar events begin to transpire, turning the family’s retreat into a tense and mysterious ordeal. Mahershala Ali’s character, George H. Scott (G.H. for short), and his daughter Ruth (Myha’la), enter the scene, claiming ownership of the house due to a blackout in the city. This sets the stage for a suspenseful tale of mistrust and rapid uncertainty.

Despite the film’s potential and the considerable star power it brings to the table, Leave the World Behind struggles to carve its own identity. The initial anticipation wanes as the narrative unfolds, revealing a story that meanders and fails to deliver the anticipated thrills. At well over two hours in length, the film’s pacing becomes a noticeable issue, with the tension deflating about halfway through and leaving you checking your watch for the promised revelations.

The characters, portrayed by the talented trio of Roberts, Hawke, and Ali, feel disappointingly one-dimensional. While the actors give engaging performances, they are hampered by characters that lack depth and complexity. Myha’la, as Ali’s confrontational daughter, falls into a similar trap, adding to the film’s inability to create realistic and compelling interactions among its cast. They’re exceptionally flat and one-note, with little in terms of development or reflection.

Reviews for Movies like Leave the World Behind (2023)

Director Sam Esmail’s attempt at crafting a Hitchcockian-Netflix hybrid doesn’t quite hit the mark. The tense moments, crucial for a thriller, fluctuate between being earned and feeling underdeveloped. The film’s mysterious elements similarly fall short, failing to engage the audience in a captivating exploration of the unknown.

However, Leave the World Behind does find some success in its big set pieces, particularly when the narrative ventures beyond the confines of the house. Mahershala Ali’s character becomes a focal point, introducing an element of uncertainty and mistrust that injects some life into the story. But unfortunately, the film’s ending, while attempting to be monumental, lands more as an awkward finale that struggles to justify its extended runtime.

Leave the World Behind feels like a missed opportunity—a muddied work from a director capable of better material with massive scale design and decision-making. While the film showcases moments of promise, it succumbs to an uninteresting plot and reveal, leaving audiences yearning for the engagement found in M. Night Shyamalan’s thrillers or other established masters of the genre.

And thus, Leave the World Behind leaves audiences with a mixed bag of emotions. Despite the star power and glimpses of potential, the film falls short of creating a memorable thriller experience. Sam Esmail’s vision, though evident in certain aspects, struggles to overcome the hurdles of a lackluster plot and character development. As the credits roll, the film, unfortunately, feels like the bloated skeleton of a better movie.


Genre: Drama, Mystery, Science Fiction, Thriller

Watch Leave the World Behind on Netflix

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Leave the World Behind Movie Cast and Credits

Leave the World Behind movie poster


Julia Roberts as Amanda

Ethan Hawke as Clay

Mahershala Ali as G.H.

Myha’la Herrold as Ruth

Farrah Mackenzie as Rose

Charlie Evans as Archie


Director: Sam Esmail

Writers: Sam Esmail, Rumaan Alam (Original Writer)

Cinematography: Tod Campbell

Editor: Lisa Lassek

Composer: Mac Quayle

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