Julia Roberts as Amanda in Leave the World Behind

Life Is Paralleling the Events of ‘Leave the World Behind’ … Again

Reality is once more edging too close to the plot of Leave the World Behind for comfort. Americans woke up on February 22nd to a nationwide AT&T outage, mimicking the onset of the global disaster in the hit Netflix movie.

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Leave the World Behind caused quite a stir when it arrived on Netflix late last year. The disaster thriller follows the Sandford family, who head off on an impromptu getaway. Unfortunately, their surprise vacation quickly turns into a nightmare when disaster strikes, and they’re left stuck in their Airbnb with the rental’s owners to try to navigate the catastrophe. What makes the movie so thrilling is that a blackout wipes out the family’s internet, phone service, and TV, cutting them off from the rest of the world and leaving them stranded in an unfamiliar place. As a result, neither them nor the viewers understand what’s actually happening throughout most of the movie, creating a strong sense of fear and anxiety.

Perhaps the scariest aspect of the movie was that there’s a chance it could actually happen. Society is now literally built around technology, but almost no technology is bulletproof from hackers or outages. Sure, the events in Leave the World Behind, where hackers manage to control every car, airplane, and boat, are unlikely and an absolute worst-case scenario. However, even just temporarily cutting internet and phone services nationwide would cause enough chaos in itself. Hence, Americans were a bit concerned when a massive AT&T outage struck.

AT&T outage draws Leave the World Behind comparisons

The Sanford family running from a boat in Leave the World Behind
(Netflix)

In the early hours of February 22, AT&T received tens of thousands of reports about nationwide outages. By 8:00 AM EST, the company had collected 71,000 reports of outages. AT&T’s subsidiary, Wireless Cricket, recorded another 13,500 outages. Other cell services, such as Verizon and T-Mobile, also experienced outages, but to a much lesser extent. Around 1,1000 T-Mobile outages and 3,000 Verizon outages were reported. The outages seemed to especially impact customers in the south and southeast United States, with many reports coming in from Houston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Atlanta.

Some users experienced phone service issues, but others experienced a total loss of signal and mobile internet access. The biggest concern in several affected cities was that residents couldn’t even call 911 due to the loss of signal. Several fire departments across the country issued warnings about the outage and even suggested alternatives, such as using a landline, for residents who couldn’t call 911. So far, AT&T has acknowledged the outage and has been working on slowly restoring its networks, though it has not provided any details on what caused the outage.

On top of that, one day earlier, pharmacies across the country experienced outages due to a large-scale cyberattack. After detecting the cyber security threat, pharmacies quickly disconnected their systems for protection. The outage meant pharmacies couldn’t process insurance coverage, so customers who couldn’t afford their prescriptions out of pocket would have fills and refills delayed. So far, there is no evidence that AT&T’s outages were also caused by a cyber security attack. However, the widespread outages across pharmacies and phones nationwide were definitely giving Leave the World Behind vibes.

The movie started trending on X as users expressed their concern that the film’s plot was happening in real life.

Of course, just the fact that thousands of people are able to post about the outage being like the movie proves that the AT&T issues are nowhere near a Leave the World Behind-level threat. The majority of the country still has phone and internet services, and the nation doesn’t appear to be under attack. Still, the movie certainly has changed the way we think about outages, as it made us aware of how easily they could devastate a nation. Additionally, this is the second time reality has gotten a little too close to the movie plot.

In the movie, all of the self-driving Teslas in the nation are hacked, causing massive pile-ups and congesting highways across the nation. Then, just days after the movie’s premiere, almost every self-driving Tesla in the nation was recalled for an autopilot error. Again, it didn’t wholly match the film’s situation, but it was enough to set some viewers on edge.

From now on, it’s likely every technological failure will draw Leave the World Behind comparisons as viewers ponder if it’s really an error or an orchestrated attack.

(featured image: Netflix)


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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is an SEO writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, YA literature, celebrity news, and coming-of-age films. She has over two years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.