Director Emerald Fennell takes viewers on a voyeuristic journey into the world of upper-class privilege. Set against the backdrop of Oxford University, the film follows the story of Oliver Quick, a struggling student who is drawn into the eccentric world of the Catton family. With its immaculate cinematography, witty dialogue, and all-star cast, Saltburn promises to be a wild ride. However, while the film is often hilarious and visually stunning, it falls short in terms of its thriller elements.
I feel Saltburn aims to be a crossover between Brideshead Revisited and The Talented Mr. Ripley, offering a satirical exploration of the lives of the British upper class. The movie is a hotchpotch of various elements, including college stories, decadent aristocracies, psychosexual torment, and eccentric British traditions. It combines these elements to create a biting and memorable dark comedy that leaves a lasting impression.
One of the standout features of Saltburn is its immaculate cinematography, courtesy of Robbie Ryan. Ryan’s work captures the essence of the story, juxtaposing the grandeur of the Catton estate with the underlying darkness that permeates the narrative. The framing and defamiliarized shots evoke a sense of unease and dissonance, similar to what was achieved in The Favourite.
In terms of performances, Saltburn boasts an all-star cast that delivers exceptional acting. Barry Keoghan shines in his portrayal of Felix Catton, the charming and enigmatic aristocrat who draws Oliver into his world. Keoghan’s performance is captivating, showcasing his versatility as an actor. Additionally, Rosamund Pike delivers a scene-stealing performance as Felix’s snobbish mother, further adding to the film’s dynamic and engaging ensemble.
Although Saltburn may not take as many risks as Fennell’s previous film, Promising Young Woman, it excels as a structurally sound black comedy. The film offers a straightforward narrative that explores one man’s depraved obsession with wealth and status. The dark humor is complemented by well-chosen needle drops, creating an immersive experience for the audience.
While Saltburn succeeds in many aspects, it falls short when it comes to delivering thrilling moments. The film’s third act feels disjointed and confused, hindering the overall impact of the story. It’s clear that Fennell intended to create a suspenseful and intense climax, but the execution falls flat. This lack of coherence in the narrative may leave some viewers feeling unsatisfied.
Final Thoughts: Saltburn is Worth a Watch
Saltburn is a dark and hilarious exploration of upper-class privilege. It combines elements of college stories, psychosexual torment, and eccentric British traditions to create a memorable and biting dark comedy. The film showcases exceptional cinematography and all-star performances, with Barry Keoghan and Rosamund Pike standing out among the talented cast. While Saltburn may stumble in its third act, it still offers an entertaining and thought-provoking experience. If you’re a fan of black comedies and enjoy films that challenge societal norms, Saltburn is definitely worth a watch.