The Menu review: strange things are happening in Ralph Fiennes’ kitchen…

Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy in The Menu
Share this Article:

Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy star in The Menu – a tense, intriguing and bitingly funny thriller from director Mark Mylod.

Having directed episodes of prestige TV series Game Of Thrones and Succession, Mark Mylod knows his stuff when it comes to making slick productions that contain heaps of tension. He brings these sensibilities to The Menu, a stylish thriller with an incredible cast. Set in the prestigious culinary world, Ralph Fiennes puts on a layered performance as Chef Slowick, owner of a restaurant secluded on an island that houses him and all his staff – named Hawthorne. As you might imagine, it’s invitation-only and hideously expensive, but that brings the rich elite flocking to his doors.

On this particular night, the guests include food enthusiast Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) and his guest Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy), harsh food critic Lillian Bloom (Ozark’s Janet McTeer on top form), and a politician (Reed Birney) and his wife (Judith Light). Also starring are John Leguizamo, Hong Chau, Paul Adelstein and Aimee Carrero. It’s an impressive ensemble cast, and the performances they produce are all extremely memorable. 

To begin with, this is a film about food. Not just any food, mind you – it’s about expensive food. The kind that’s served in tiny portions, its concept and ingredients explained in a way that overly-intellectualises what’s meant to be just an enjoyable sensory experience. From the outset the film is wickedly funny in a witty way. Even as each course is lingered on and made to look incredible (cinematographer Peter Deming certainly knows how to shoot food) it’s clear that The Menu is always mocking its characters – both Fiennes’ chef and his rich clients.

Deming’s cinematography is one of the many highlights of the film. He skillfully captures the beauty of the bustling kitchen, the dishes it produces and the nature the ingredients come from. Combined with the slick production design, this is a very good looking movie.  

The cast of The Menu walking through a lush green garden.

As the events of the film unfold, the witty black comedy combines with a threatening undercurrent. The meals are served in perfect unison by the staff. Their cries of ‘yes chef!’ are jarring. There’s a sense that there’s something not quite right, as we soon find out. Slowick’s highly conceptual courses become interspersed with long speeches and theatrical acts, the point of which doesn’t become fully clear until a particularly shocking moment that’s truly unexpected and jaw-dropping.  

From there, the film really pulls no punches. It’s tense as well as bitingly funny, and the chemistry between Anya Taylor-Joy and Ralph Fiennes is incredible. Their verbal sparring is entertaining and intriguing, and he’s clearly having fun as a theatrical, unstable and unpredictable character. You’re always anticipating what his next move is, and the screenplay is innovative enough that you rarely can predict what he’ll do next. The same goes for the movie’s conclusion, which provides a somewhat unexpected but fitting resolution. 

While the rich/poor dynamic has been explored numerous times before in films like The Hunt and Ready Or Not, The Menu brings new ideas by being more specific in its focus. The dynamic here is the one between service staff and their wealthy, entitled clients. It digs into how they’re often beaten down, and displays this in the melodramatic, witty and theatrical way that characterises the rest of the movie.   

With its incredible ensemble cast, it’s no wonder The Menu is a memorable and enjoyable thriller. What’s surprising is the myriad emotions it provokes. Mylod has succeeded in directing a film that’s nerve-shreddingly tense, intriguing, unpredictable and genuinely amusing throughout. This menu certainly does include some incredibly delectable things.

The Menu is released in UK cinemas on 18th November.

Thank you for visiting! If you’d like to support our attempts to make a non-clickbaity movie website:

Follow Film Stories on Twitter here, and on Facebook here.

Buy our Film Stories and Film Junior print magazines here.

Become a Patron here.

Share this Article:

More like this