Within the first few minutes of meeting bad boy businessman Hal (Christopher Abbott) and fiery Rebecca (Margaret Qualley) in Sanctuary, it’s easy to see that they both unlock something within each other. Whatever that is—a new level of passion, pain, desire, honesty, or any other deep human emotion—is crucial to their game with each other. One of the first lines of dialogue spoken by Rebecca mentions that their connection is not physical, but mental. Completely mental.
It’s quickly revealed that their entire introduction is a script written by Hal in order to fulfill his darkest fantasies with dominatrix Rebecca. The script, which lightly lays the background for Hal’s story by mentioning his impending takeover of his late father’s hotel company and his nervousness about his acceptance by the Board, is abandoned. Rebecca injects her own devilish words and mind games into Hal’s time with her—time that has been recurrent enough to have made Rebecca $32,000 richer.
“Sanctuary, Sanctuary, Sanctuary…”
The game continues through an “ordinary” session of theirs, but with Hal taking over the business, he has to put an end to their future together. As Hal breaks the news to her that their relationship has reached an end, her games don’t stop. They progress. They heighten. Rebecca tortures Hal by telling him that she has filmed their sessions and will release the video for the world to see. That begins the mind-messing games they play with each other for 96 razor-sharp minutes.
A witty, red-hot, and at times incredibly funny script from Michael Bloomberg keeps the intensity of the film palpable the entire time, with Qualley and Abbot’s chemistry—both sexual and otherwise—driving the stakes continually higher. Successful twists and turns make this movie more than the sum of its parts and keep the audience guessing about the true intentions of each character. A provocative score from Ariel Marx effortlessly wisps through the seductive nature of the entire movie.
Sanctuary is a scintillating, sexy, and captivating movie that touches upon the connection between sex and power, individual identity, and generational trauma. It’s a dynamite display of what can happen behind closed doors when greed, sex, and power drive decisions. While Hal and Rebecca unlock something in each other, they also unlock something in the audience that leads to a fiercely fantastic time.
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'Sanctuary' Review'Sanctuary' Review
- Margaret Qualley doing what she does best—being Margaret Qualley.
- Quick runtime with a tight and witty script make an easy watch.
- It's like if Roman Roy got blackmailed by a dominatrix.
- Retelling of traditional love/retribution movie tropes.
- Don't watch this movie with your parents.