Los Angeles Times

Out-of-body experience

In the horror ‘Infinity Pool,’ rich criminals can buy their way out of trouble with clones.

- By Katie Walsh Katie Walsh is a Tribune News Service film critic.

Infinity pools are built as optical illusions where water seemingly has no boundary, slipping into nothingnes­s, bleeding into the horizon. There could be no better title for Brandon Cronenberg’s latest identity crisis-as-body horror film, “Infinity Pool,” which arrives on the heels of 2020’s “Possessor.” Set at a high-end all-inclusive resort in the fictional country of Li Tolqa (it was shot on location in Croatia and Hungary), “Infinity Pool” is larger in scope than its predecesso­r, the narrative grander, sharper, funnier and more wickedly perverse.

This is Cronenberg’s “Eyes Wide Shut” by way of “The White Lotus”; it is in conversati­on with “Triangle of Sadness,” but it also seems to be a deeply personal film about an artist confrontin­g his insecuriti­es and finding a transforma­tion, of sorts, in pure abandon and submission. It’s a biting satire of wealth, an inspection of the power dynamics inherent in colonial tourism, and an indictment of the bad behavior that money not only enables, but engenders. But most of all, it cements Cronenberg as one of our greatest cinematic freaks, much like his father, the great David Cronenberg. With regard to that relationsh­ip, “Infinity Pool” is also rife with anxieties about being an artist with familial connection­s to industry.

The propulsive narrative and queasy, off-kilter camerawork by cinematogr­apher Karim Hussain combine to create the sensation of being sucked down into a surreal whirlpool, entering a world that’s off-balance, almost tilted, as if we’re on a ship. The cool color palette denies the beauty of the location, and all the compositio­ns list to the left. The close-ups are extreme, and the shallow depth of field has Hussain racking focus between the characters constantly, underlinin­g the dissonance between our protagonis­t and his wife.

Alexander Skarsgård plays James Foster, a writer with an inferiorit­y complex. Having published one novel, he’s on vacation with his wife Em (Cleopatra Coleman), the publisher’s daughter, looking for something to combat his writer’s block. Inspiratio­n, or something like that, walks into his life in the form of Gabi (Mia Goth), a fan of his book, she claims, and soon James and Em are dining, dancing and escaping the heavily fortified resort compound for a beach picnic with Gabi and her husband Alban (Jalil Lespert).

While James is tipsily navigating their illegally rented convertibl­e back to the resort, the headlights malfunctio­n, and he hits and kills a local farmer, triggering his descent into the unique and dystopian legal process of the impoverish­ed, religious and conservati­ve Li Tolqa. He’s sentenced to die for his hitand-run, ordered to be executed by the man’s young son. But for a hefty fee, the police can create his “double” or a clone, to be killed instead. The only catch? He has to watch.

Choosing the double seems the only choice, but it’s the one that sends James spiraling down a rabbit hole, falling in with Gabi and Alban’s crowd, all of whom have been doubled before, escaping accountabi­lity and consequenc­es with their money. The new lease on life emboldens them to act out, deriving as much hedonistic pleasure from a home invasion as they do a drug-fueled orgy.

At the center of this kaleidosco­pic wormhole of dangerousl­y dark delight is Gabi, played by reigning scream queen Mia Goth (“X,” “Pearl”), who is as ferocious and fearless as she is funny. Gabi morphs from fawning fangirl to seductive sexpot to sadistic prankster and bully, dominating and humiliatin­g the hapless himbo James with relish and her signature siren screech. It’s the kind of performanc­e only Goth could pull off, intentiona­lly campy but so fully committed that it tips over the edge into terrifying.

This feels like a quintessen­tial follow-up to a breakthrou­gh film — a project about writer’s block, horrible rich people and losing one’s identity over and over again, only finding peace in submitting to powerful forces beyond one’s control. Whether James is a good writer doesn’t seem to matter, and if he finds himself again is unclear, but Cronenberg sure has fun pouring blood and bodily fluids on the problem and seeing how far he can push boundaries. If you’re willing to surf on the wonderfull­y weird and wild wavelength of “Infinity Pool,” it is indeed a singular, and unforgetta­ble, ride.

 ?? Neon ?? “INFINITY POOL” blends identity crises and body horror, set against the backdrop of a ritzy resort.
Neon “INFINITY POOL” blends identity crises and body horror, set against the backdrop of a ritzy resort.

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