Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 47 minutes, Director – Mark Mylod
12 diners are presented with more than a lavish menu when attending a dining experience on a remote island.
While you may not be able to relish and savour the various lavish dishes that are put on display throughout The Menu you’re certainly able to do so to the mysterious darkness which lies within them. The meal itself may start off as something over-complex in terms of design and background – at least to diner Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy) who doesn’t quite get the fascination her partner Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) has with the various medleys put in front of them, and chef Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes) – but overtime personal details about those eating come to light as darker reasoning in-between the various dishes is revealed.
As the threat level increases with each course there’s plenty of fun to be had as the diners worry escalates, whether they be regulars (Reed Birney, Judith Light) or out-of-the-limelight film stars (John Leguizamo). Amongst the finely tuned dark comedy which adds to the fun there is to be had with this particular film there remains something captivating about Fiennes performance. The film pitches him and his working-in-unison staff, with Hong Chau as maître d’ Elsa, as the antagonists of the piece early on. Yet, with his early displays of culinary storytelling and introductions to each dish you can’t help but be held in the palm of the “Lord High Emperor of Sustenance’s” hand.
Things may start to lose their edge somewhat as the threats become more certain when led to the fore as the new driving force instead of the meal itself, but there’s still plenty of enjoyment to be had. The film keeps in mind various aspects of humour within the panic of the assembled twelve and manages to keep its pace up through a handful of laughs and chuckles as they have a dining experience like no other. Making it all the more perplexing that the ending barrels into staggering cliché as if going for the simplest thing due to having not known where to end.
Luckily, it’s not enough to disturb the film as a whole, and the flow is still kept alongside your interest in the unfolding evening. Perhaps helped by the fact that while certain instances may lean into intentional theatricality for the presentation of each course but as a whole never feels as if it could be played out on a stage – despite the largely one-location setting of a restaurant on a remote island. Director Mark Mylod helps to keep a cinematic feel with his movement of the camera and drift through the conversations occurring at each of the different tables before everyone comes together in fear at what they are witnessing and what is being revealed within their dishes – including personal details printed on tortillas which are otherwise praised for their taste.
The second half of The Menu may not quite have the same edge of the first with the darkness brought more to the fore instead of lying as a sense of mysterious threat. However, there’s still plenty of enjoyment and devilish fun to be had witnessing the unfolding events weaved into the tales of food and cooking which are part of the initial engagement with the film as a whole thanks to Fiennes’ soft-spoken chef, alongside the rest of the ensemble cast – particularly the focuses of Taylor-Joy and Hoult who find their responses to everything they witness being polar-opposites. Things are well balanced and generally pass along with ease thanks to the flow of the meal and the various courses helping to initially present the twists, turns, surprises and intentions of the Hawthorne restaurant.
There’s plenty of fun to be had within the subdued threats and darkness of The Menu, while the edge might be slightly lost when that comes more to the fore there’s still a good deal of entertainment value to be had weaved amongst the various well-presented courses.