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THE MENU (2022)  l  Searchlight Pictures  |  November 18, 2022

Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult, Hong Chau, John Leguizamo

Director: Mark Mylod

A young couple travels to a remote island to eat at an exclusive restaurant where the chef has prepared a lavish menu, with some shocking surprises.

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TIFF REVIEW BY: Darren Zakus

The Menu serves up a deliciously sinister time with an excellent thriller that will keep you on your toes, all anchored by a formidable performance from Ralph Fiennes. 

 

You may have seen the trailer for The Menu and think you know where the film is going, but nothing can prepare you for the experience that is this film. From Mark Mylod, one of the minds behind Succession, the film follows a young couple on a night out at an exclusive restaurant on a remote island, run by a legendary chef. The entire evening is surrounded in mystery as twelve guests attend this unique dining event, with a menu prepared especially for them. But as the night progresses, it becomes evident that this is more than just a dinner as shocking secrets about the guests come to life and why they were selected to attend the restaurant that night. 

 

From the beginning of the film, a feeling of unease washes over the audience, as you know this night out is not going to go as the characters expect it to. The manner in which the restaurant staff act and worship their head chef is off putting, but the plot slowly develops as each course of dinner is served. As the courses progress and become more and more outlandish, tensions begin to rise as you realize what is about to unfold. Your mind is preparing for a full blown horror film, but the film firmly remains a thriller. At the same time, it’s a dark comedy with a biting social commentary on privileged members of society that you could only expect given the involvement of one of the writers and directors of Succession. The screenplay is amazing and will have audiences erupting in laughter while simultaneously trembling in their seats as the madness of the night takes flight. 

 

Helping to build the tension and terror of the night is an unforgettable musical score from Colin Stetson. It drives the tension of the film with a bombastic sound that instills fear in you as it overtakes the visuals of the film to convey the true horrors of the story unfolding on the screen, while capturing the elegance of such an exclusive restaurant. Stetson delivers what is without a doubt one of the most impactful musical scores of the year, that not only should be considered this awards season, but will ensure that Stetson becomes a more prominent composer in the industry. Primarily set in one location, the restaurant, the modern set design is sleek, allowing every character to be in view throughout the film so no one can hide, despite so many of them trying to hide dark secrets from their past. The cinematography captures every angle of the restaurant, focusing in on each character so that they cannot hide from the exposure of their secrets. 

 

But, it is the excellent ensemble cast that makes this film a home run. Led by Ralph Fiennes as Chef Slowik, Fiennes is an enigma in the role. Shrouded in mystery, ensuring that you can never guess his true intentions for the menu he has prepared for the restaurant’s guests. Fiennes is no stranger to villainous roles, having portrayed some of the most terrifying characters in cinematic history including Lord Voldemort and Amon Goeth, and Chef Slowik is another great addition to his resume. There is a calm collectedness to Chef Slowik that Fiennes nails, while you can see a true evil brewing under his icy facial expressions that will have your stomach turning, as you never know what Chef Slowik will do next. At the same time, Fiennes finds a humanity in Chef Slowik while he interacts with Anya Taylor-Joy’s Margot, a young woman who he never planned on being a guest that night, wrestling with what he should do with her. 

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Speaking of Taylor-Joy, she is a formidable opposite Fiennes, creating one of the most dynamic and twisted pairs to be experienced on screen this year. The dryness and attitude she brings to Margot is the perfect counterbalance to the calm and calculating nature of Chef Slowik, where once again Joy proves herself to be one of the most exciting young actresses in Hollywood. Then there is Nicholas Hoult, playing Margot’s monster of a date Tyler, who is absolutely obnoxious and narcissistic. Hoult revels playing this asshole of a character, wearing that smug file as he plays a truly sniveling shell of a man to perfection. 

 

The rest of the cast is just as outstanding as the three leads, but that comes as no surprise when your supporting cast is Janet McTeer, John Leguziamo, Judith Light, Hong Chau, and Reed Birney. Even the relatively younger actors in the supporting cast, namely Paul Adelstein, Aimee Carrero, Rob Yang, Mark St. Cyr, and Arturo Castro, are just as great as the bigger names in the supporting cast. Each of them is excellent from start to finish, but given they have such a brilliant screenplay to work with, it is evident to see why each performance is so great as it is truly one of the most exciting scripts of the year. 

 

With it being a film revolving around food, it comes as no surprise that the food dishes in the film are absolutely mouthwatering in appearance. The camera focuses on the food that is being prepared, and it looks truly delicious. So much so that you will get hungry watching it, even with some of the more outlandish dishes that Chef Slowik has prepared. And guaranteed, you will never look at a cheeseburger or s’more the same way again after the brilliant and hilarious use of both of them in this film. 

 

From the second the lights go off and The Menu begins playing, audiences are in for one of the most exciting and wildest rides that they will find at the cinema this year. Led by two incredible performances from Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy with an thrilling and wildly hilarious screenplay, featuring an outstanding musical score from Colin Stetson and mouthwatering food dishes to die for, The Menu is without a doubt one of the most unforgettable films of the year that you cannot afford to miss!

RATING: 4.5 out of 5