Struggling male model Carl (Harris Dickinson) and his influencer girlfriend Yaya (Charlbi Dean) have a somewhat strained relationship. They seem to be past the infatuation phase and only appear intermittently interested in each other’s company. Additionally, money issues have begun to sink in, with Carl getting upset that he is usually expected to pay for things while Yaya brings in more money than he does. Yaya nabs them an invitation to join a luxury cruise on a superyacht as long as she promotes it to her followers, and so they head off to sea with an assortment of some of the world’s wealthiest people, including a gregarious Russian oligarch named Dimitry (Zlatko Burić), his wife Vera (Sunnyi Melles), elderly British weapons-manufacturers Winston (Oliver Ford Davies) and Clementine (Amanda Walker), tech millionaire Jarmo (Henrik Dorsin), and Therese (Iris Berben), who recently recovered from a stroke that left her capable of speaking only a single sentence in German.
The crew, headed up by Paula (Vicki Berlin), is under orders to agree to basically anything the guests request, no matter how seemingly outlandish it may be, which leads to the entire staff being made to take a swim in the sea at the whim of Vera, who thinks she is providing them some respite from their duties but is really only making their jobs more difficult. The food that was being prepared for the evening’s Captain’s Dinner is left to sit out as a result causing some of it to begin to spoil. While this is going on, the Captain (Woody Harrelson) has been locked up in his cabin getting drunk and only finally emerges to attend the dinner, as the ship begins to head into rough seas with no one monitoring the helm. As you can guess, this confluence of events doesn’t go well for anyone involved, and the cruise only gets worse and worse.
Writer / director Ruben Östlund (Force Majeure, The Square) uses the scenario to revisit many of his favorite themes, like fragile egos, out-of-touch elites, the unfair order of human society, and how easily it can break down, all with his now-signature darkly dry sense of humor. It may be a bit more on-the-nose with its messaging than his previous films, but that doesn’t make it any less effective or entertaining. The cast are all convincing in their roles, with Dickinson and Dean perfectly suited for their parts as the couple around which most of the story revolves. Housekeeping head Abigail (Dolly de Leon) doesn’t get to make much of an impression until the final third of the movie, but once her character becomes more important she really stands out. The three-act structure can kill off the story’s momentum at weird moments, but it always recovers. It may not leave you with a very positive impression of humanity, but at least it allows us some wry chuckles about the increasingly dire state of things. ★★★★
RATED R FOR LANGUAGE AND SOME SEXUAL CONTENT.
★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor