Director Emerald Fennell has returned to the big screen with another incredible film. After her award-winning 2020 feature film debut with Promising Young Woman, many have wondered where she would take her career. Her sophomore feature is Saltburn, a psychological black comedy thriller starring Barry Keoghan as Oliver Quick, who gets drawn into the world of an Oxford classmate Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi), and is invited to spend a summer at his eccentric family’s estate. This is a riveting experience that sucks you into its world and characters and achieves a lot with its premise.
Fennell immerses you into a world teeming with enigmatic characters, a pulsating narrative, and a visual style that’s as captivating as it is unique. At the heart of this magnetic experience are the compelling performances of Keoghan and Elordi, whose on-screen chemistry forms the spine of this absorbing tale. Keoghan portrays our protagonist and he has a tricky job at the center of this film. He is magnetic and effortlessly engaging. He breathes life into an alluring and mysterious character, drawing viewers into his world with a charm that’s hard to resist. His portrayal invites audiences to latch onto his intriguing journey, which develops a lot from the beginning to the end.
Opposite Keoghan, Elordi shines as Felix, utilizing his undeniable sex appeal and charm to his full advantage. His charismatic presence on screen adds complexity to the character, showcasing a depth that extends beyond the surface. He has already impressed audiences this year with his role as Elvis Presley in Priscilla and continues to shine as an emerging movie star. Oliver and Felix share a chemistry together, but the draw is how Felix manages to get many people enamored with him while hiding who he really is.
Fennell’s script and direction in Saltburn are a departure from her previous work in Promising Young Woman, delving into diverse themes while maintaining her signature wit and sharpness. The film navigates through multifaceted layers, exploring relationships, absurd comedy, and unexpected twists that keep the audience engaged and entertained. Although the movie contains a few structural similarities to Fennell’s previous work, this gothic thriller manages to provide an experience unlike anything else you may have seen this year with its biting satire and darkly sexual nature. Saltburn seduces you into its remarkably lavish setting and pulls the rug out from under you in the final act.
The musical score is an entrancing force, pulling viewers deeper into the film’s immersive world. Its well-chosen and well-timed selections heighten emotions and amplify the impact of certain pivotal moments, complementing Fennell’s direction and enhancing the experience. The final scene is a shining example of the biting soundtrack. Anthony Willis’s musical score works perfectly with Linus Sandgren’s breathtaking cinematography. Much like Promising Young Woman, Saltburn is a gorgeously shot film with a strong aesthetic that shines through in nearly every frame, accentuating the shocking imagery.
Rosamund Pike’s brilliantly humorous line readings inject the film with a dose of wit and levity, adding another layer to the already rich tapestry of the story. Carey Mulligan’s presence further elevates the film, contributing to the sharp sense of humor that permeates the narrative. Archie Madekwe is another shining light in the film, providing an antagonistic force that counters our protagonist at every turn. Furthermore, Fennell’s directorial prowess shines through not only in her unique visual style but also in how she directs each person’s performance on the screen.
Despite its brilliance, a few areas could have been further explored or refined to elevate the overall experience. Furthermore, Saltburn may not hold up on a rewatch for a few viewers, especially when they know what happens in the final act. Nonetheless, the movie stands tall as a testament to Fennell’s prowess as a filmmaker and the exceptional performances delivered by its cast. Keoghan and Elordi are as enchanting to watch as always, and this movie shines whenever we get a glimpse into Oliver’s dark obsessions and sexual fantasies. It’s absurd and disturbing, and as much as you want to look away, it pulls you back in.
Fennell has created a setting bursting with flavor, and the events that transpire in this mansion are a wonder to behold. This exceedingly well-crafted narrative starts out as a wonderfully warm look into a story of friendship, but with Fennell’s work, nothing is ever that simple. If you’re looking for an enchanting, vibrant satire on class with a dark twist, look no further than this gem of a film. It’s dark, funny, and an unforgettable experience.
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 8 equates to “Great.” While there are a few minor issues, this score means that the art succeeds at its goal and leaves a memorable impact.
Disclosure: ComingSoon attended a press screening for our Saltburn review.