The third feature film from writer-director Brandon Cronenberg, Infinity Pool shows that he can keep finding different ways to explore what seems to be his favourite topic - immortality. There's more to this, and it's different enough from both of his previous films, but it's interesting to see that the pros and cons of potential eternal life seems to be his obsession (perhaps stemming from his personal experience of forging a career with the weighty Cronenberg name attached to him).
Alexander Skarsgård plays James, an unsuccessful author (he wrote one book, some years ago, and hasn't written anything since) on holiday with his rich partner, Em (Cleopatra Coleman). They are staying in an exclusive beach resort, advised not to stray outwith the boundaries of that area, and having a very nice time of it. Things all change when they meet Gabi (Mia Goth) and Alban (Jalil Lespert), a couple who encourage them to be a bit more daring and join them for a day out. A day beyond the resort walls. Heading home, an accident leads to someone dying, which could land them all in very hot water. That's when the central idea of Infinity Pool kicks in. This island has a deal for tourists who can afford it. If you have the money, you can pay for a clone to be executed in your place . . . while you watch. This bizarre experience changes something in James, and he realises that he can live his life without fear of consequences. For a while.
As you may have already noticed, Infinity Pool is a movie that actually sits nicely alongside a few other recent releases that have something to say about the selfishness and entitlement of people who can afford anything they like. It might make for a bizarre triple-bill, but you could easily schedule this alongside both The Menu and Triangle Of Sadness and have a strong thematic strand running through your evening's entertainment. This may be a horror film, and one interspersed with hallucinatory and kaleidoscopic imagery at times, but the biggest horror of it all is watching people devolve so quickly when they realise that they can be as hedonistic and boorish as they like, pitying those around them who haven't tasted the same level of "freedom" from the chains of morality.
Skarsgård is excellent in his role, moving convincingly from a state of calm and passivity to a wrecked mass of raw nerves as things develop (imagine him as a healthy tooth that is then worn down and broken within a short space of time), and it's not saying anything new now to heap a whole lot of praise upon Goth, who plays her part here with sheer glee. Even when raging with anger, Goth's character is confident that she will get whatever she wants by the time everything is sorted out. Coleman has less to do, but it's good that her character remains calm and clear-headed at a time when everyone else is looking to dive into the deep waters of insanity, and Lespert is suave and charming throughout, the slick devil alongside Goth's imp/demon.
While it is all put together well enough, with every aspect, from the score to the practical FX work, supporting the ideas being explored throughout, Infinity Pool, due to the nature of that central conceit, cannot avoid feeling a bit inconsequential. Maybe that is deliberate, maybe it isn’t, but it certainly lacks the impact of Possessor (which remains Brandon Cronenberg’s finest work, to date). There's a strong point being made during the final scene, but any statement is undermined by what ISN'T said/shown. I just wish, ironically, that more people had suffered some real consequences. That isn’t to say it is a bad film though. It’s a good one. In fact, it's a very good film indeed.
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