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REVIEW: ‘The Menu’ serves up a tense, thrilling main course

Sean I. Mills
Staff writer
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Posted 11/27/22

If you like tense, character-based thrillers with a healthy dollop of dark comedy, order up a helping of “The Menu” and dig in to a real treat.

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REVIEW: ‘The Menu’ serves up a tense, thrilling main course

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If you like tense, character-based thrillers with a healthy dollop of dark comedy, order up a helping of “The Menu” and dig in to a real treat.

The holiday season might not be the right time for a bite of horror mixed with social commentary, but “The Menu” is a far better film than any of the cheap, forced Christmas movies that are already clogging up movie theaters while Thanksgiving is barely over. “The Menu” is a tightly filmed, cleverly written thriller spread-headed by a pair of great performances.

It’s not going to put you in the Christmas spirit, and it’s probably not going to make you very hungry, but “The Menu” is definitely going to be a good time at the theater.

Chef Julian Slowik is so prestigious that he runs a private restaurant on a private island, catering to only the richest and most exclusive clients. Then at dinner one night, a specific set of guests discover that something might be very wrong and the menu is not what they ordered.

“The Menu” is an expertly crafted story, with a tight tension that builds and builds to an exciting degree. The movie starts with a seemingly ordinary visit to a high end restaurant, while introducing us to our ensemble cast. And then every new course of the dinner reveals some new level of madness, until both the dinner guests and the audience realize that they’re all in danger.

There’s also an undercurrent of dark comedy helping things along. The guests are all very particular in their personalities, and the chef is very sharp in his demeanor. This leads to a lot of fun barbs and gags, keeping the story entertaining, and keeping it from delving too deep into pure horror.

The real meat of “The Menu” comes in the head-to-head clash between Ralph Fiennes, as Chef Slowik, and Anya Taylor-Joy, who plays Margot, the fly in the ointment. She’s an unintended plus one to the dinner, and the chef is bristled by someone throwing a monkey wrench into his carefully planned revenge dinner. The two actors are as great as we’ve come to expect them to be as they contend with one another throughout the film, all leading to a truly excellent climatic encounter.

“The Menu” really nails the ending, especially in terms of acting talent. Fiennes and Taylor-Joy really deliver.

The holidays might not be the right time for a tense, darkly comedic thriller, but if that’s your taste in movies, then “The Menu” is a perfect main course.

“The Menu” is playing in local theaters and is not yet available for streaming at home.

For more discussion of the film, tune in to the Sentinel Cinema podcast at: https://romesentinel.com/podcasts/

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