Last weekend, Leave the World Behind hit Netflix, and people had a lot of polarizing thoughts. Some think that this is an incredibly huge waste of a cast of great actors. And others seem to think that this was the movie that M. Night Shyamalan should’ve directed. Some even seem to get it, all of it; the anxieties that the characters had in the movie in terms of the plot, in which the world is pretty much coming undone. In fact, Leave the World Behind could be argued to be a very realistic look at how the world really does come to an end.
The film, adapted from a novel of the same name by Rumaan Alam, made its debut on bookshelves in October 2020. This clearly means it was written a few years prior, which is strange due to the subject of the story, as upon its release, a lot of us, if not all of us, were living like the characters in Leave the World Behind. So you have to ask yourself, based on the evidence you’ve seen in your personal life in parallel to this movie (or book), could all of this really happen? The answer has more truth than you think.
Cyberattacks and Satellites Can Destroy All Communication
Rather than a tale of the apocalypse having to do with a virus that turns us into monstrous killers or the dead rising up through the ground to eat us, Leave the World Behind takes a look at realistic side of today’s world with technology. Cyber attacks have been on the rise for many years. It’s a new form of warfare among countries and could play a huge factor in things if World War III were to break out. The start of all things going downhill for the characters in the film seems to be something along the lines of all digital communications going down.
Hence, why there’s no cell phone reception, which then leads to a ship hitting the beach in the first act, planes crashing, and nearby New York City is apparently in a blackout. We also pull away from the chaos to see subjective shots of satellites quietly roaming the earth. It’s crazy to think that if these parts of today’s world go down or are manipulated, it could get scary.
Technology Could Turn Against US
To branch off of the previous entry to this article and examine once again another trope of doomsday movies, technology is pretty scary. The Terminator touched on it, The Avengers fought Ultron, and even every screenwriter in Hollywood is pissed about AI replacing them (the irony is, the target of their rage was against a place like Netflix). One scene worth mentioning is the traffic jam of empty Teslas.
These cars were not abandoned by owners; they still have dealer price tags on the window, and they drove themselves off the lot. Business then picks up as some more rogue smart cars drive themselves down the highway and nearly kill some of the characters in the film. It’s just another notion that, yes, progress in what we can do with technology and engineering as time goes on can be great, but if we are not careful, it could be what ends us all.
We’ve All Kind of Been There Before
You’d be lying if you said you haven’t seen Leave the World Behind and didn’t feel some flashbacks to scenarios that felt like 2020 all over again. This coming March, it will have been four years since the world shut down due to COVID-19, and then when it all kind of opened back up, we all kind of hated each other a little bit. There are a lot of double-edged-sword moments in the movie. Julia Roberts, who plays Amanda in the film, won’t allow G.H. (Mahershala Ali) and his daughter Ruth (Myha’la Herrold) into the house they are renting from them.
The scene does make her seem slightly prejudiced towards them due to her being white, and they’re Black, and yet, we also don’t know Ruth and G.H. yet, so we get that Amanda wants to protect her family. Scenarios like these tense stand-offs filled up the internet due to cell phone cameras for the entirety of 2020. The confusion, the paranoia, and the not-getting-answers are all over the plot. We’ve all not only seen this play out, but a lot of us have felt it.
Isolation Will Drive You Crazy
With the setup of all of this feeling oddly familiar and realistic, so do the issues that trickle down to the characters. Even the luxurious home that these two families are trapped in isn’t saving them from mood swings and dread of what’s coming, and not even we know what is coming or going to happen to these characters, but it can’t be good, judging by the film’s final moments.
We were all kind of there too; a few months of having to stay inside sounded like an easy task when faced with a trying time in comparison to, oh, well, our grandparents who went and fought in a war. Regardless, doing that and staying chained to one place suppresses our perception of our free will, something that we can tell that Amanda feels like she has in the movie. She’s very type A, very alpha, and very “likes to be in control”, and what scares her most is that she no longer is.
The Conspiracy Theories
We are living in a time when opinions are everywhere, and with that comes an era of massive conspiracy theories. Leave the World Behind does a brilliant job of walking up to that line but never crossing it because, in return, it could hurt the film. Case in point: the small role of Kevin Bacon in the movie. He looks, acts, and dresses like the uncle you don’t want to get to know too well at Thanksgiving. His opinions sound like something he read from an underground news source website while he was having some quiet time in the bathroom away from the kids he has trouble connecting with.
The more effective scene is with Mahershala Ali and Julia Roberts. We learn a little about G.H. and how he was able to afford a beautiful second home. Nerves have settled slightly, and G.H. talks about the clients he has as an accountant. They’re powerful men whose names he can’t say. And yet, a few days before the events of the film happen, he gets a call from a client to move some money, and he’s going away for a while. This story of his is never really brought up again, nor does it reach a conclusion. It’s just there, and we want to know more about a potential secret society of overlords in the world. But we never get it because when questions like that are raised, we never get answers; life just kind of goes on.
Whether you liked Leave the World Behind or not, you can’t deny its bold stance on the idea of life-altering and even potential world-ending events and the baggage that comes with such a thing. Rather than have an asteroid the size of Texas hurling itself towards us or an alien spaceship invading New York City, it just asks questions. Why is there a scene that pulls us back off of the earth and to the moon, where we see the lonely American flag? Is that supposed to signify that we are alone in the universe? Either way, the existential dread is all there for us to be isolated with, and we can’t forget about Friends on DVD. Nope, we can’t forget about that.