‘Infinity Pool’ Ending, Explained: What Happens To James? Does He Escape The ‘Descent Into The Abyss’?

It seems the class satires are here to stay, and we’re not complaining. Over the last year alone, there have been a dozen movies and shows that poke fun at the rich, the most renowned being- “The White Lotus,” Oscar-nominated “Triangle Of Sadness,” “The Menu,” and many more. The veils of horror have been shifting and changing shades with directors like Ari Aster and Brandon Cronenberg. After the widely successful “Possessor,” Brandon is clearly here to unpack some deep-seated thoughts along with his lead actor Alexander Skarsgård, both of whom face a lot of critique because of their respective lineages. Keeping that in mind, Alexander gives a career-defining performance as a man thoroughly broken down to his very core.

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The world-building is fantastic, and Mia Goth is diabolically alluring (we would want to stay away from her for sure after this one). “Infinity Pool” is an immersive experience that is exciting cerebrally, making one question the idea of mortality entangled with hedonism in the most shocking and vile ways you can imagine. This is a big warning for those affected by strobe lighting effects. Don’t hesitate to watch this film if you’re interested in the ‘eat the rich narrative,’ as Alexander has said himself, and specifically for those fantastic practical effects we rarely get to see in this world of CGI. Trudge lightly if you’re squeamish and don’t appreciate psychedelic visual stimulation. If you’re still interested, enjoy the film and come back to this complete breakdown of “Infinity Pool.” 

Spoilers Ahead

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‘Infinity Pool’ Plot Synopsis: What Happens In The Film? 

James Foster is an unsuccessful writer who is married to (and living off of) the rich and gorgeous Em Foster. It’s been six years since James wrote his first novel, and he hasn’t written ever since. So, to get inspired, they decide to visit a luxury resort on the beautiful but poverty-stricken island of Li Tolqa. Gabi is another guest at the resort and invites James over to have dinner with her and her husband Alban as a fan of his novel. James is immediately intrigued because Gabi is one of the handful of people in the world who’s read his pathetic book.

Dinner goes swimmingly, and the couples decide to spend the next day together. Gabi and Alban have made plans to go outside the boundary of the resort, which is forbidden for international visitors. James, though, is convinced that nothing could go wrong, and they head out with them in a rented car. After a fantastic day of food and drinks, Alban is too drunk to drive, so James offers to drive them back home. Unfortunately for James, the headlights start to blink. While he tries to fix it, a man walks onto the road, getting hit by their car. James has just killed a man. Gabi and Alban warn James and Em not to call the police, get inside the car, and leave immediately. They tell them they’ll handle it the next day. Even with Em’s warnings, James agrees to the plan, and they drive back home. What happens next? 

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‘Infinity Pool’ Ending Explained – What Happened To James? 

In this game of seduction, Gabi immediately drags James into her nest with praise and the literal ‘stroking’ of his pride (you know if you know). From the beginning, it is Gabi who takes control of all the situations, including when James hits the man on the street. The next day, James and Em, to their utter shock, are taken in by the police for their crime. A detective going by the name of Thresh interrogates James. Thresh tells James that he has to be executed by the eldest son of the victim. But, there is a Li Tolqan tradition where they make clones of people, doppelgangers, with all their memories, and as an act of diplomacy (also to keep tourism alive), tourists who have the money can get cloned and evade execution. The physical double would get executed instead. James signs the papers because his wife has them and corroborates the detective’s story about what happened that night. It is clear that Li Tolqa is using this ceremonial execution as a tool to benefit the government, but the tourists that know about it are now taking advantage of this cloning system and using it as an excuse to commit heinous crimes. 

James and Em are taken to a dark chamber with few other family members of the deceased person where they have to witness the execution of the clone. It’s unreal how similar the clone is to him, and as he gets executed, James seems to shed some skin and evolve into something new. Even giving a smile as his double gets slaughtered by a child (or is it James who gets killed?). They also get a souvenir of sorts which is an urn of the clone’s ashes. Em is disgusted by it all and wants to leave immediately, but James can’t find his passport. James tells Em to ‘run back to her daddy.’ Gabi and James meet at the lobby, and Gabi tells James that she and Alban also went through an execution previously.

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Alban was working on an infinity pool project for a local resort that collapsed and killed two workers. The owner blamed Alban. Gabi tells James that his eyes look more vibrant (remember this for later). She knows he feels ‘different’ just like they did; what we can only imagine is him being more alive and confident than he was before. Gabi also tells James to accept everything that has happened as a ‘gift of inspiration.’ She invites him to their villa, where James meets more rich snobs who have ‘discovered’ the same experience. There is no such thing as crime and punishment for the rich because it looks like they can get away with anything, including manslaughter, in this country. One of the ‘zombies,’ as they like to call themselves, asks the vital question, ‘what if it was actually them who were killed and not the clones?’ The memories are the same, but this rich cult seems to be unbothered by the answer. Instead, they want to rob the man that blamed Alban. They even use the traditional ‘Ekki masks’ with no respect as they leave for their ‘escapades.’

At his house, they create a ruckus, almost like animals. Unfortunately, things do not go down well for them after Gabi brings out a gun, and well, people die. Alban also gets shot in the leg, and they’re all caught for the misconduct with, you guessed it, the penalty being death. We are led to believe that this time it is actually the real people who are getting executed until we pan to the ‘zombies’ rejoicing with the scene put forth in front of them. James is now inducted into this pack, blinded by his hubris. Em says he looks like the crabs gone bad at the dump around the eyes and finally leaves Li Tolqa without James. Gabi has taken full ‘control’ of James’ ego. Gabi goes as far as to say that women like Em train men to ‘believe they’re weak’ (oh, Jamesy, just you see what comes for you). Gabi introduces James to an aphrodisiac drug that is traditional to the La Tolqians and is considered religious for them. Sorry, maybe the word ‘inducted’ was used too soon. After taking the drug, James partakes in an orgy (the debauchery that ensues is unsettling, to say the least) that now makes him ‘part of the crew.’ Wow, these zombies are really going to their primal instincts, it seems. The next day James has no care in the world. It looks like he’s found his inner strength while spitting out food at other guests at the resort (Yo! Take it easy on the drugs). 

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The crew gives James the idea to show Thresh who the ‘stronger’ man is. James, fueled by the idea of dominance over a powerful person, agrees with the plan. Thresh is supposed to be getting corrective surgery when they plan on kidnapping him. James waits outside and almost gets hit by a police van. It looks like he’s ‘going out of his mind’ at this point. They get Thresh and head back home. Almost like a hazing ritual, James sniffs up the drug to feel vitalized. He then viciously beats up veiled detective Thresh, even urinating on him to show him ‘who the bigger man is.’

Finally, Gabi unveils the poor detective, only to reveal it’s been James under there the whole time! Of course, not actually James, but his doppelganger. Gabi reveals that the zombies just wanted to play a prank on James and paid the detective to make another clone of him. James is absolutely tormented by this fact, finally realizing what kind of monster he’s turning into. He wants to leave immediately and conveniently removes his passport from hiding to try and secretly get on the shuttle to the airport the next day. James had hidden the passport from Em because he clearly liked the taste of the island after the first execution, wanting to stay there for longer. To his utter dismay, though, Gabi and the rest are beside the bus in minutes, laughing at him for trying to leave. Gabi brings out the gun again and shoots at the bus to get James out. This is when we get the most authentic and iconic Mia Goth scene ever! Gabi screams at the bus asking where ‘little baby’ Jamesy is heading off to. She gets vicious and yells at the bus that if James doesn’t get out, then people will die. He obliges only to be made to walk in front of the moving car, where Gabi laughs at his existence. She reveals that she’s never read his book, and this is what they do every year on vacation. Find someone innocent to feed on and basically destroy their ego until they’re completely shattered while the zombies thrive. She reads him one of the bad reviews of his books, and finally, he manages to distract her and grab the gun, only to lose it again; he still manages to escape and run off into the forest. He’s then shot in a leg and, upon reaching an opening, collapses after seeing two native women. 

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James wakes up in a haze to the dreadful view of the kid that had killed his doppelganger. The kid is smiling widely at James as he comes nearer to the bed. The kid grabs James’ neck and strangles him. James looks on and tries to use his hands on the kid’s face. As he presses down, he sees the kid’s face change into Em’s face. She’s laughing and asking for help, but it’s exactly the words James’ first clone said whilst being executed. She continues to laugh and splits him open with her bare hands. Suddenly, a man is hit by a car, and James wakes up. It was actually a nightmare, and James has finally escaped… never mind that. As he steps out of the house, cars shine light upon him, with Gabi and the rest standing in front of him in a semi-circle.

Gabi explains to James that they’re going to set him right. They’re going to ‘fix him’ today. “It’s time to move from your ‘larval’ mind to the true ‘creature’ you’ve become,” Gabi says while explaining how this is a mission of mercy (enough with the animalistic metaphors). Gabi orders for the dog to be brought out, some of us really were expecting a dog, but there comes out James’ clone, the same one he beat up. He’s on all fours like a dog, and they give him the drug. The only way James can reach his true potential is by mercilessly killing this ‘dog.’ James is offered a knife which he throws aside while yelling that he is done with all this and will not indulge them anymore. Unfortunately, said ‘dog’ attacks him first, and in a fit of anger, James sucker punches his clone to death (but the visual assault with this one. Sheesh!). He’s killed his old self and now is reborn! Quite literally, Gabi proceeds to take some of the blood from James’ hand and apply it to her breast so she can breastfeed him (As if “Barbarian” didn’t hurt us enough, scarred for life a second time).

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It’s morning, and James is heard speaking to Em about returning the next day. As he walks out, all the ‘zombies’ are in the shuttle with him. They’re talking about the trivial things in life as if none of the previous events ever took place. They talk about returning the next year as they part ways. James is surrounded by the chaos of people around him at the airport until it quiets out, and he’s the only one there. We see his flight ticket, and the date says 2018. James is then seen sporting a little more facial hair, drenching himself in the rain by the pool back at the isolated resort as the monsoon season has hit. 

Now, what could this mean? Firstly the commentary in this film is quite diverse; it talks about how the rich behave when they’re in other countries and their treatment of people less privileged than them. The kind of benefits they reap from being wealthy even after making life-altering choices. At the beginning of the film, when they’re in the resort that is surrounded by barbed wire, it’s almost as if the La Tolqians don’t want these ‘wild animals’ to come out. It can either be that James became corrupted by Gabi’s words because of his hunger for power; after all, he’s not been doing anything for the last six years, or that in the first execution, it is actually James who died and that’s why every time they die, it’s a more dumbed down version of James emerging.

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We are more drawn to the former idea because it all seems, in a way, Faustian. Of course, there’s no soul-selling, but it’s succumbing to the darker side of nature that James indulges in after witnessing his own execution. The ‘Ekki masks’ are also disfigured butchered faces with horns, maybe as a mark of what’s truly inside humans. What James is looking for is infinite strength and power, but this is all a mirage, just like an infinity pool. But it also gives the bleak feeling of an abyss if started for too long, an infinite loop that is unbreakable. James returns to the resort because he can never go back to the real world. He will always be a toy to the rich.

The infinite cycle began when James believed Gabi’s lies about his book. James’ mind is not unrelenting, and he finally decides to remain in that loop for years because he has lost his autonomy. Another theory suggests that we see that date in 2018 because James has already been there many years, and these incidents keep reoccurring. The title of his book – “The Variable Sheath” is also somewhat of a reference to a kind of masking of power. The sheath covers a weapon; a variable sheath could mean a disguise that will someday reveal itself. Or, in this case, himself. 

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Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika, or "Ru," is a fashion designer and stylist by day and a serial binge-watcher by night. She dabbles in writing when she has the chance and loves to entertain herself with reading, K-pop dancing, and the occasional hangout with friends.

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