Mahershala Ali’s Apocalyptic Thriller Was Heavily Inspired By Stanley Kubrick’s 1 Signature Trait To Unnerve the Audience

The apocalyptic psychological thriller starring Mahershala Ali perfectly channels Stanley Kubrick’s zooming traits and unnerving music!

Mahershala Ali’s Apocalyptic Thriller Was Heavily Inspired By Stanley Kubrick’s 1 Signature Trait To Unnerve the Audience

SUMMARY

  • Leave the World Behind is a postapocalyptic psychological thriller film inspired by Rumaan Alam's 2020 novel of the same name.
  • The film stars Mahershala Ali, Julia Roberts, Myha'la, Ethan Hawke, and Kevin Bacon, and embodies Stanley Kubrick's influential techniques of unsettling music, zooming shots, and psychological suspense.
  • Director Sam Esmail is the writer, director, and producer of the film, which honors Kubrick's legacy while creating an unforgettable symphony of unnerving suspense.
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When it comes to cinematic masterpieces, it is impossible to overlook Stanley Kubrick’s exceptional artistry and visionary abilities. The film industry will never be the same due to his exceptional ability to create tension with the deliberate use of unsettling music and zooming shots. Introducing Leave the World Behind, an apocalyptic thriller film starring Mahershala Ali that brilliantly embodies Kubrick’s influential techniques.

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With a haunting musical score and Kubrickian zooming techniques, director Sam Esmail deftly honors the former’s legacy while creating an unforgettable symphony of unnerving suspense.

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Esmail is the writer, director, and producer of the 2023 postapocalyptic psychological thriller film, which was inspired by the 2020 novel Rumaan Alam of the same name. Julia Roberts, who also served as the film’s co-producer, stars alongside Ali, Myha’la, Ethan Hawke, and Kevin Bacon.

Mahershala Ali
Mahershala Ali in Leave the World Behind

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How Did Stanley Kubrick Inspire Sam Esmail’s Leave the World Behind?

On the ReelBlend podcast, writer/director Sam Esmail, 46, talked about the Netflix movie Leave the World Behind, which stars Julia Roberts, Mahershala Ali, Ethan Hawke, and Kevin Bacon. He discussed his work as a producer, how he added elements of his own to Stanley Kubrick’s films and other things. 

Kubrick has always used music as an atmospheric tool to heighten emotions and draw viewers into his painstakingly created worlds in his films. Similar to how he picked spooky music to go with his stories along with the ‘zooming’ factor, Esmail was also inspired to create a disquieting symphony that lingers in viewers’ minds long after the credits roll. 

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Ethan Hawke and Julia Roberts in Leave the World Behind
Ethan Hawke and Julia Roberts in Leave the World Behind

Esmail told the hosts:

“I remember when I first saw [Stanley Kubrick’s] A Clockwork Orange, if you remember the opening shot; to me, it was one of my favorite openings of any movie. Its just a slow zoom in on our main character and he’s got the stare… When I first saw  I was like 14 and I was watching it with my friends.. I’ve never seen a Kubrick’s film before… We just watched six of his movies overnight.”

The director was so taken with Kubrick’s visual language, in which he used zooms that stretched beyond the boundaries of comfort. Esmail discussed Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange:

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“And A Clockwork Orange, then that shot happened. I remember physically, like you said, ‘leaning in’ and I thought, ‘wow’..  okay, if a shot can do that, if a shot can get you physically to react, you know that moment is really powerful to me..”

A Clockwork Orange
A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange was ranked 75th in the directors’ poll and 235th in the critics’ poll of the British Film Institute’s 2012 Sight & Sound poll of the greatest movies ever made. The Library of Congress designated the movie as ‘culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant’ in 2020 and recommended its preservation in the United States National Film Registry.

Read More: “I think we were both very struck by how sad it was”: Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar Was a Fight Against America’s Biggest Conspiracy Theory Involving Stanley Kubrick

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Sam Esmail: Julia Roberts Accomplished ‘Something Insane’

Sam Esmail’s suspenseful adaptation of Rumaan Alam’s 2020 bestseller of the same name, Leave the World Behind, is currently available on Netflix. This disaster film is never clearly described, but its effects—such as Wi-Fi outages, deer infestations, and beached cargo ships—cause a vacationing couple (Ethan Hawke and Julia Roberts) and an enigmatic couple (Mahershala Ali and Myha’la) to become increasingly paranoid. Esmail told USA TODAY:

“It’s a disaster movie that reorients you away from the disaster and towards the disintegration of these six characters. In some ways, it betrays the genre, but that made me more excited about doing it.”

Leave the World Behind
Leave the World Behind

Moreover, Esmail regarded Roberts as his “only choice” to play Amanda Sandford, referring to her as the “Michael Jordan of actors”:

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“She was my only choice for this role. Julia is the Michael Jordan of actors, so why not go to M.J. if you need to pull off something insane like this movie. Amanda is so prickly and so flawed, so you need great talent but also that undeniable charm for the audience to stay with her.”

Leave the World Behind made its world premiere at the AFI Fest on October 25, 2023. On November 22, 2023, it made its theater debut before being released on Netflix on December 8, 2023.

So, stream Leave the World Behind on Netflix.

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Written by Siddhika Prajapati

Between everyday normalities and supernatural abnormalities, Siddhika Prajapati finds the story in everything. Literature Honors Graduate and Post-Graduated in Journalism (from Delhi University), her undying need to deduce the extraordinary out of simplicity makes her a vibrant storyteller.

Serving as a Senior Entertainment Writer at Fandom Wire and having written over 1000 pieces, Siddhika has also worked with multiple clients and projects over the years, including Indian Express, India Today, and Outlook Group.

Who knows, maybe your next favorite persona on the screen will be crafted by her.