With credits like Game of Thrones, Succession and The Affair under his belt, TV Director Mark Mylod turns to feature film-making in the form of genre-defying hit, The Menu.
Led by a career-best Ralph Fienes, the cast is stacked. Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult bear the brunt of the dramatic weight but do so with ease and they are both a delight. Hoult especially is giddily entertaining as irritatingly pretentious foody Tyler and bounces off Taylor-Joy’s eye-rolling Margot wonderfully. Filling in the gaps we have a seldom-seen but always charming John Leguizamo who’s enjoyed a bit of a late 2022 revival with this and Violent Night padding out his filmography. Each and every cast member brings their A-Game and there isn’t a weak link. When you have acting giants like Fienes in the room, there has to be a level of inspiration there that simply can’t be taught. However, Fienes steals the show as the quietly intimidating, jaded Chef Slowik. His ominous presence weighs heavily on the characters populating the isolated restaurant (in which 90% of the film takes place) and that same dread bleeds out of the screen to infect the audience. It’s a flawless turn from the master of menace.
Tonally the film shifts regularly between comedic beats, character detail and shocking reveals. This unpredictability is what makes it so compelling. It’s impossible to know where it’s going next and trying to outwit it would be a futile endeavour. The writing from Seth Reiss and Will Tracy does enough to flesh out the characters while avoiding clunky exposition. We know just enough to understand their motivations and their various reasons for being there save for one point in the final act which could’ve benefitted from an additional scene or two to further explore the idea. On the whole though, it’s a slick and lean script which, coupled with efficient and effective directing, puts the runtime at a refreshing 147 minutes.
Ruling – To dwell too much on plot is to wander dangerously close to spoiler territory. Suffice to say you’ll come away from this film having experienced the full spectrum of emotion as well as a truly original piece of film-making.