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The Highlander

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The Highlander

Saltburn leaves several questions

Comedy-thriller Saltburn is two hours of confusion
Saltburn%2C+a+comedy-thriller+set+in+early+2000s+England+was+released+on+November+17%2C+2023.+The+movie+tells+the+story+of+university+student+Oliver+Quick+who+befriends+wealthy+Felix+Catton+and+the+chaos+that+unfolds+as+he+spends+the+summer+at+Felixs+familys+estate%2C+Saltburn.
Courtesy of IMDb
Saltburn, a comedy-thriller set in early 2000s England was released on November 17, 2023. The movie tells the story of university student Oliver Quick who befriends wealthy Felix Catton and the chaos that unfolds as he spends the summer at Felix’s family’s estate, Saltburn.

Given that I hadn’t looked into the substance of this movie prior to watching it, it’s safe to say I was surprised by Saltburn, a British comedy-thriller that was released on November 17, 2023. From the movie’s first quarter, I thought Saltburn was about two university students who – despite their different backgrounds – would become friends. Clearly, I was very wrong.

Saltburn is the story of a seemingly shy university student, Oliver Quick, who claims to have been dealt a bad hand in life and somehow stumbles upon and becomes obsessed with fellow student Felix Catton. Whether Oliver is in love with, obsessed with, or simply envious of Felix is unclear, though, at times, it seemed like he was all of the above. However, Oliver is altogether attracted to Felix’s electric and reckless attitude, which he is privileged with, given his ridiculously wealthy background. Oliver manages to befriend Felix, who then invites him to spend the summer at his family’s eccentric home, Saltburn, in which Oliver familiarizes himself with the luxuries of the rich and attempts to assimilate in any way possible. The main plot of the movie is essentially Oliver making continuous and increasingly unhinged efforts to become closer to Felix in an attempt to become a version of his so-called friend.

The plot reminded me of The Talented Mr. Ripley, a horror-thriller movie from 1999 in which a less fortunate and clever Tom Ripley comes across a wealthy and carefree Dickie Greenleaf whom he seems to fall in love with and becomes dangerously infatuated with. Both movies depicted a man of less fortune aspiring to climb the social ladder to achieve impossible wealth, though I found Saltburn to be a much more disturbing version.

I found Oliver’s character to be both confusing and off-putting. While it was clear his character was meant to be more manipulative and secretive, at times, I felt that he didn’t know what he was doing or what his plan of manipulation was. For at least half of the movie, his actions were truly reckless and painful to watch, and I found myself having to pause the movie to simply wrap my head around the unnerving actions he carried out.

The central theme of this movie critiques the rich and their surface-level behavior, as much of Felix and his family’s conversations were ignorant and completely unrelated to the issues they came across throughout the movie. It seemed as though the entire family was scared of reality. While they shared their fabricated and posh lifestyle at Saltburn with outsiders such as their long-term guest and recovering drug addict Pamela, it was clear that their charities were merely a facade that was easily revealed through their elitist behavior.

Meant to be a thriller, I can understand why the dialogue is limited to light-hearted banter with darker implications, though I felt that the movie tried too hard to be abstract. I was left with many questions unanswered as to the characters’ actions and their methods of deception towards one another. Despite the movie being extremely horrifying and rather puzzling, the film’s aesthetics were lovely to watch. The setting was beautiful, and the entire movie had more of a vintage feel due to its grainy and filtered camera detail. The estate itself was very classical, which made it seem as though the more modern set characters and their unhinged behavior were misplaced in such a serene setting, which undoubtedly added to the story’s off-putting nature.

Although there were very few songs featured in the movie, I enjoyed the soundtrack as it smoothly combined both the modern characters with the classical background. These traits were perfectly executed in the movie’s infamous and strange final scene, in which a remix of the disco-alternative hit “Murder on the Dancefloor” was featured. The song perfectly contrasted the nature of the movie’s discomforting plot with the surface-level appearance of extravaganza.

Considering that the movie’s confusing scenes and Oliver’s contradictory behavior throughout the film were paired with an altogether aesthetically pleasing soundtrack and setting, I would rate Saltburn a 3 out of 5. While this movie somewhat failed to be abstract, it was nonetheless thought-provoking and left me curious yet fearful about what would happen next. Given its categorization as a comedy-thriller, I would say that it leans more towards a thriller in that it managed to be both baffling and unnerving while still intriguing, making it a concerning yet reflective watch.

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