Sick and twisted new film ‘Saltburn’ blows audiences away

Parties doused in lively technicolor, hedonism taken to an immeasurable extreme, a cunning yet charming cast of characters, all of this and more can be expected from Emerald Fennell’s newest film “Saltburn.” Released on Nov. 17, this movie brilliantly lies somewhere between a satire about England’s upper class and an unhinged thriller featuring intense obsession and the best of the seven deadly sins: lust, greed and envy. 

“Saltburn” opens at Oxford University in 2002, where we are swiftly introduced to Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan), an incoming student who is starkly out-of-place at his new school. He is immediately deemed an outsider due to his minimal wealth and nerdy nature. Oliver’s first few months at Oxford have him struggling to find his place while he admires the school’s rich and popular students from afar. 

In a twist of fate, Oliver and the main subject of his admiration, Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi), become unlikely friends. Oliver rockets from the bottom to the top of Oxford’s social hierarchy. 

Oliver and Felix grow closer as the semesters continue, and Oliver confides in Felix about his personal struggles. Noble, sympathetic Felix invites Oliver to spend the summer at Saltburn, his family’s estate. It’s an offer Oliver can’t refuse. 

At Saltburn, more and more about Felix, his family, and Oliver’s past are uncovered. This is where the bulk of the movie takes place, spotlighting the Catton family’s struggles and Oliver’s attempt to navigate this new life at the fanciful estate. 

The first thing I noticed as soon as the film started rolling was the aspect ratio of 1.33:1. This ratio, paired with the extreme close-up shots, creates a truly intimate feeling between the viewer and everything happening on-screen, good or bad. On top of the aspect ratio, this film was alluring in its visuals, with dynamic lighting and framing within the scenes. 

This movie was just over two hours long, but didn’t drag in the slightest. The script has you wrapped up in the plot from the very beginning, constantly wondering, “What on Earth am I watching?” and “How could it possibly get any stranger?” Then it keeps getting stranger. 

I will be honest, I had to watch a lot of these scenes from between my fingers, and I definitely would not recommend seeing this with your parents. 

Barry Keoghan has also played in “The Banshees of Inisherin,” “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” and 2022’s “The Batman.” Photo courtesy of @saltburnfilm, Instagram

If you are coming to “Saltburn” from “Euphoria” or “The Kissing Booth,” expecting Jacob Elordi in similar media, you will be in for a rude awakening. Elordi does a great job portraying Felix as your usual popular boy, bringing kindness to the character that makes the film’s events heartbreaking. Despite this, “Saltburn” isn’t like anything Elordi has been in these past few years. Felix is similar to the characters Elordi is known for, but this film brings a great variety to his film roster. 

Keoghan performed fantastically as Oliver, especially as the star of the most shocking, jaw-dropping scenes in “Saltburn.” He masterfully brings Oliver to life, successfully dueling the humble and posh aspects of the character.

The cast also features Archie Madekwe as Farleigh, Rosamund Pike as Elsbeth Catton and Alison Oliver as Venetia. They give their characters their all in this gritty psychological thriller. 

“Saltburn” is being regarded as a satire and an “eat the rich” sort of movie. This concept was definitely lost on me in the theater since the major plot twist doesn’t pack much punch on the “eat the rich” front and complements the psychological thriller themes of the film a lot better. 

In retrospect, the plot twists were a little predictable, but as you’re sitting in the theater being transported from one crazy scene to another, you’ll completely miss the foreshadowing. You’ll get whiplash on turns you should’ve seen from the beginning.

In the end, “Saltburn” is a wild ride from start to finish. It was masterfully written, produced and directed by Fennell and truly earned all its stars. The shocking scenes are masterfully done, not distracting or over saturating the film. “Saltburn” has made its way into my top films 2023, though I think I can go quite some time without seeing it again. 


5/5 Stars


Featured photo courtesy of @saltburnfilm, Instagram