Saltburn Review

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Rating: 3.5/5

Synopsis:

“Saltburn” is one of those movies that will create discussion in the indie film crowd. It has some bold ideas, but does it have the story to back it up? Oliver Quick is a student at Oxford University, attending on merit rather than status. He meets Felix Catton, an aristocratic classmate that is immediately intriguing. They quickly develop a friendship, where Felix asks Oliver to spend the summer at his illustrious estate. Oliver soon realizes that he may have a summer that changes his life forever.

Positives:

Although the trailers for “Saltburn” didn’t intrigue me, the movie garnered strong reactions from the film community (for better and worse). As a film enthusiast, I had to check it out. I’m happy I decided to give it a chance because the film goes in some directions that the trailers wouldn’t indicate. The best compliment I can give the film is the artistic way the story was shot. The cinematography crafts some sharp, colorful imagery that lets the eyes feast on each frame. This combines nicely with the perspective driven storytelling from Oliver. That is until the reveal in the third act which makes us consider what we’ve been seeing all along. It would be fun to rewatch the film and put the pieces together knowing everything that comes.

Performances were also something to highlight. Barry Keoghan finally gets to lead a film and he makes the most of it. There are a handful of downright uncomfortable scenes he has to engage in that would make anyone cringe. That level of commitment to such a disturbing role is impressive. Trust me when I say that these scenes will make audiences wince and drop their jaws when watching. Jacob Elordi adds to his rising stardom with an impressive showing as Felix. He’s having a good year with his performance here and portrayal of Elvis Presley just a short while ago. Veterans Rosamund Pike and Richard E. Grant are great as the aristocratic parents. Everyone else involved does a nice job too.

I’m always impressed with a story where an underlying mystery seems to be at play. It keeps engagement in the story high and guessing at the forefront. When stories bend reality or intentionally avoid showing parts that could spoil the intrigue, that services the film well. “Saltburn” is darker, weirder, and more of a psychological exploration of a disturbed man than we might imagine. Of course, there is commentary on the elite throughout the story. But there’s a nice satirical nature of the story format where it’s not beaten over the head. It instead explores a group of nasty characters…no matter their wealth status.

Negatives:

I’ll never knock a movie like “Saltburn” for being gutsy in its approach and providing content that competes with the blockbuster culture. Where this falters for me is in the story. Unfortunately, most elements have been used in other films that attempt to trick the audience (in the best way possible). The big reveal towards the end of the film didn’t come as a surprise at all. Based on Oliver’s behavior throughout the film, I had a feeling there was something sinister about his character. The general format of the story follows a similar template of “The Talented Mr. Ripley”. If you’ve seen that, most of the story will be familiar territory. That film crafts the overall premise better, but “Saltburn” does it in a way that is more nightmarish and dystopian. Both tell the story in a unique way, but “Saltburn” feels like the derivative version.

Something that didn’t sit well with me by the end was the simplicity of the story. The buildup to the conclusion was interesting and slowly got more tense. But since the twist was predictable, the film lacked a profound payoff. The plot could have more twists, turns, and unexpected aspects to make it more distinct from “The Talented Mr. Ripley”. The story could have been told in a way that provides more insight into the main characters’ perspectives. If their perspective of Oliver was explored in a more intimate way then it could have felt more unique, preventing the expected twist.

Conclusion:

“Saltburn” is a well-made, polished version of a story we’ve seen before. Although the story is derivative, the film is made with undeniable skill. The performances also keep the story afloat due to the uncomfortable nature of certain interactions. Audiences will enjoy the polished look of each frame as well. I enjoyed the film but would mainly recommend it to the indie crowd who enjoy stories that are all sorts of weird! Others…proceed with caution and expect to be uncomfortable.