The Weirdest Thriller of the Year is Finally Streaming
It’s murder on the dance floor.
Everyone loves a scam story, at least everyone outside of the victims. Whether it’s the story of Anna Delvey, the Tinder Swindler, or Fyre Fest, seeing a harebrained scheme pay off is always satisfying — even if inevitably crumbles down later.
This year, Promising Young Woman scribe (and Barbie supporting actress) Emerald Fennell told the definitive scam story that manages to fool its characters and audience alike, building to a shocking climax that makes you instantly want to rewatch. Thankfully, now that her movie is streaming on Prime Video, you can do just that.
Saltburn is the story of lonely Oxford student Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan) who befriends handsome playboy Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi). After a family tragedy, Felix offers to host Oliver for the summer, but Oliver’s stay quickly takes a dark turn leading to betrayal, secrets, and even murder.
Much like previous “less fortunate character worms their way into rich family” stories like Parasite or The Talented Mr. Ripley, there’s an aspect of punching-up that’s irresistible to watch. Felix’s mother Elspeth (Rosamund Pike) is seen bragging about Oliver’s tragic past like he’s a rescue animal, highlighting just how transactional this act of generosity really is. There’s nobody to root for, which leaves the viewer to watch in horror as Oliver morphs into whatever he needs to be to sink his teeth into the family dynamic: the pathetic charity case, a manipulative mastermind, or even the ultimate romantic partner.
It all leads to a tumultuous third act where Oliver’s birthday party threatens to ruin his entire plan, only to be undercut by a horrible accident. We see Oliver take his final form, someone who will do whatever it takes to attain his goal. It may be obviously signaled, but that doesn’t make the reveal any less shocking when you see just how far Oliver is willing to go.
There’s a reason Inverse previously called Saltburn a monster movie. By the time viewers realize just what is going on with Oliver, everything is already in motion. The suspense isn’t in if everything is going to fall apart, but how it will. And even if it takes decades, it definitely will.
The star of the Saltburn is the one-two punch of Emerald Fennell’s opulent direction and the crackling chemistry between Keoghan and Elordi. The entire movie is presented in a 4:3 aspect ratio, making it feel claustrophobic but also retro. This makes every conversation between Oliver and Felix feel like a scene in a teen drama, which only makes the shocking sexual scenes that follow all the more jarring.
Fennell may still be struggling with sticking the landing in her sophomore feature, but in a movie that’s so centered on sowing discord, a messy denouement makes perfect sense. It’s a movie about vanity, perception, and the lengths people will go to find control in a world where there basically are no rules. It’s not about rich vs. poor or good vs. evil. It’s about people who exist in a messed-up world and become caricatures of themselves through that.