REVIEW: Brandon Cronenberg’s ‘Infinity Pool’ … with a limit

Film · Reviews

Film directors for screens large and small are taking delight in skewering the 1% for everything they’ve bestowed on the rest of us during our dark and mostly unfunny times. Infinity Pool, written and directed by Brandon Cronenberg (Possessor, Antiviral), follows this trend — set by hugely successful comedy-dramas like those by Mark Mylod (The Menu); Bong Joon-ho (Parasite); Mike White (The White Lotus); and Jesse Armstrong (Succession) among others.

Infinity Pool begins as a couple’s dream vacation in an exotic foreign land gone awry. It could be seen as the spectacularly nightmarish cousin to The White Lotus. It’s similarly set at a resort and features a cast of characters navigating class and marital issues—with a murder or two (or three or more) thrown in for good measure. But Infinity Pool wants to shock its audience with extreme scenes so over-the-top that the only possible reaction is to laugh (as did several in my audience).

Infinity Pool lurches from horror-movie suspense to parody at hairpin speed, which in those brief moments, pulled me out of the narrative of this mysterious fantastical reality. The repetitive hallucinogenic montage sequences would seem more at home in a more sober sci-fi film. As Cronenberg handles this, it feels, at times, pretentious. Additionally, Tim Hecker’s film score for the first half is too on-the-nose, with old-time scary movie tropes. Yet, the acting by a well-chosen cast, the sci-fi premise of instant cloning (you go with it), and its cold-hearted jabs of humor (no pun intended) made me watch with guilty obsession.

Alexander Skarsgård, the star, and protagonist, contributes yet another stellar performance (The Northman and HBO’s Big Little Lies). But as written, Infinity has limited his character’s range or identifiability. Unlike The Menu, with Anna Taylor-Joy’s ‘Margo’ as the audience stand-in, Skarsgard’s ‘James Foster’ is as generic as his name. A sad-sack failed writer who married money and is (mild spoiler) literally skewered early on in the film. Foster provides little to root for. Along with the shallowness of his soul, we are left with a sense of emptiness. But perhaps that’s the point. As a viewer, I wanted to care for someone or something just a little more.

Mia Goth, as the over-the-top siren Gabi, is thrillingly magnetic. Her full-throttle embrace as the tormentor at large nearly steals the movie. I loved how she transitioned from adoring fan to cliché married temptress to the bat-shit loony torturer. Her delight in playing this character was palpable and added great energy to her every scene.

Director/writer Brandon Cronenberg is not just an industry nepo baby of a very famous director, but an engaging, worthy extension of David Cronenberg’s legacy and obsessions. The recent Crimes of the Future (2022) by Cronenberg-père was as chillingly claustrophobic, darkly humorous, and extreme as Infinity Pool. As a fan of this genre, I am not complaining. The son is doing his father proud. This film is only Brandon Cronenberg’s third in a series that point towards a compelling future of unconventional works.

Infinity Pool gets a qualified recommendation. You’ll find yourself swimming in the bracing water of a one-of-a-kind world — but you won’t find yourself in the deep end.

photos: courtesy of neon films

Stephan Koplowitz is a director/choreographer and the author of On Site-Methods for Site-Specific Performance Creation (Oxford University Press, 2022) by day. By night, he’s an avid cinephile.

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