Movie Review: Infinity Pool
Plot: Failed novelist James Foster (Alexander Skarsgard) travels to the fictional country of Li Tolqa with his wife Em (Cleopatra Coleman) looking for inspiration. Unexpectedly, James runs into fans of his one and only novel and is invited by Gabi (Mia Goth) and her husband Alban (Jalil Lespert) to adventure outside of the vacation complex. Their day of fun comes to a horrible conclusion however when a drunken James accidentally hits and kills someone with a car. Due to an archaic law, the consequence of James’ action is being killed by the victim’s oldest surviving relative. There is an alternative, however. Through a process called doubling, a clone of James can take his place for an exorbitant fee. What follows is an exploration of the depths of human depravity.
Review: I can summarize Brandon Cronenberg’s sophomore effort Infinity Pool with one word: unpleasant. Grim, horrific, and often boring, it is a slog to watch due to the very nature of the subject matter. Perhaps it’s my age (44), perhaps it’s because I’m a Dad, or perhaps it’s that I’m growing weary of films that take the piss out of the rich and elite, but I found Infinity Pool to be quite dour and tiresome.
The subject matter—wealthy elites getting away with murder (literally) with zero consequences—is not something audiences are unfamiliar with. Just last year Triangle of Sadness and Glass Onion tackled this subject. Infinity Pool tries to position itself as something separate with the cloning plot point developed by Cronenberg, who also doubles (pun intended) as screenwriter. Unfortunately, this unique idea is subsumed by the fact that Cronenberg doesn’t have anything interesting to say on the matter. The rich elites in this film murder, rape, kidnap, and steal with alacrity and avoid consequences due to cloning technology. They never get their comeuppance and are allowed to go back to their normal lives as if nothing happened. If this is supposed to be some kind of philosophical revelation (the uber-rich being protected by wealth and power), then someone needs to inform Mr. Cronenberg that most of the world already knows this.
It doesn’t help that our main protagonist James is completely unlikeable. Not only is he a failed novelist who revels in his new sycophants Gabi and Albans, but he’s also comfortable letting his rich wife Em pay (both financially and emotionally) for everything. Like a coward, he tries to escape the consequences of his actions and when given the cloning opportunity he uses it to indulge in the basest of immoral actions. He’s a poor man playing in a rich man’s world with his newfound “friends.” Yet just like everything else in Gabi and Alban’s world, he ends up being another plaything, an object, and not a real person. There’s the suggestion by the end of the film that James may have changed but I don’t know if that’s the case or if where he ends up is earned.
Infinity Pool does possess a few redeeming qualities. There’s some amazing imagery in Cronenberg’s film bolstered by some excellent camerawork from Karim Hussain. James’ initial cloning as well as a later drug-addled orgy were quite arresting. I also appreciated Cronenberg’s use of color, specifically red. Tim Hecker’s soundtrack is also decidedly trippy and eerie. Mia Goth delivers an incredible performance as the unhinged and frankly evil Gabi. The scene where she draws James out of a busload of people heading for the airport is going to sit rent-free in my head for a while. Goth has already shown herself to be quite adept in the horror genre. Here’s hoping this equates to other roles as the thought of her being typecast annoys me.
What’s frustrating is that Infinity Pool had the potential to be great. There’s an excellent film drowning in this morass. I believe the idea was for Cronenberg to present this like a fever dream but unfortunately, the direction comes off as scattershot, messy, and unfocused. Shocking imagery and ham-fisted, on-the-nose messages ultimately sink his film. Is the point of this movie to say that the human race is just comprised of shitty people and that given the right circumstances we will just become more depraved and shitty? What a dour and depressing thought. If Infinity Pool is supposed to reflect humanity, I’d rather just toss all my mirrors into the trash.
As someone who absolutely loved Cronenberg’s first film Possessor, I was really hoping for a solid sophomore effort. Unfortunately, Infinity Pool is a disappointing mess that is as pretentious as it is shallow.
1 God Awful Blind Yourself With Acid Bad
2 Straight Garbage
4 Sub Par
8 Very Good
10 A Must See
Infinity Pool: 4/10
Correction: Possessor is not Brandon Cronenberg’s first film. Antiviral is.