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Us

‘Us’ is the latest film written and directed by Jordan Peele. Making a name for himself with the 2017 thriller ‘Get Out’, Peele understands the mechanics of jangling nerves. ‘Us’ should have several on tenterhooks with its visceral horrifics something out of ‘The Twilight Zone’ TV series. Those who enjoy being scared should be pleased with others cautioned about the spooky delights on display.

Gabe (Winston Duke) and Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) are a married couple who take their children to a holiday beach house. Hoping for a tranquil time away, their idle is disrupted when a group of sinister strangers arrive. Looking exactly like them and referring themselves as ‘The Tethered’, their presence threatens their lives. Unending peril and terror looms unless the family finds a way to crawl out from under the wicked interloper’s clutches.

Like any good horror movie, ‘Us’ works on several levels. It can be seen as an allegory on the endless ‘us vs. them’ debate with the have and have nots battling against each other for supremacy. Or ‘Us’ can be taken as a straight up thrill-ride with plenty of scary scenes to keep viewers on edge. As with ‘Get Out’, Peele injects a healthy dose of satirical humour amongst the spooks which never takes away from the film’s power.

‘Us’ also subverts what one expects from a horror movie. It isn’t a constant blood-bath like so many, but plays on audience expectations of said carnage. Less is always definitely more with ‘Us’ thriving on its minimalistic blood-shed to deliver messages and thrills. The cast all do a fine job in conveying their character’s angst with the foreboding atmosphere kept until the conclusion’s unexpected sting.

Peele shows much talent in the thriller/horror genre dragging it out of its gory ghetto. Hopefully more in this style will surface to bring in more fans. In the meantime those wanting a smartly written fright-fest should find much to ghoulishly enjoy as things go bump in the night.

Rating out of 10: 7

Hotel Mumbai

Since almost the dawn of mankind, terrorism has been an awful constant. Fear and destruction lay in its wake with the lives of those involved forever affected. This century has seen such atrocities increase tenfold with almost daily news reports detailing the carnage. Based on the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, ‘Hotel Mumbai’ effectively explores how those involved react in these deadly situations and the swathe of anarchy unleashed.

Hemant (Anupam Kher), is a popular chef at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in the Indian city of Mumbai. One of his co-workers is waiter Arjun (Dev Patel). Their busy schedule sees them looking after guests such as David (Armie Hammer), his wife Zahra (Nazanin Boniadi), and child. Swiftly their lives are torn apart when terrorists lay siege on the hotel. Events spiral out of control as guests and staff alike must band together to do whatever it takes to protect the threat to their lives.

Directed by Anthony Maras, ‘Hotel Mumbai’ is consistently engaging. His direction teases out the emotions and tension perfectly. In any terrorist situation nothing is predictable with death occurring potentially any moment. The fear of such fate drives the people in this story as they struggle against a hurricane of violence and destruction. The script skillfully sets up the scenario on all sides with the intricacies of hotel life dovetailing into the mechanics of terrorist activities.

None of these elements would work without strong performances. ‘Hotel Mumbai’ is filled with them with Patel and others never over-playing their roles. They know they aren’t performing in a turgid daytime soap opera and bring authenticity as the story explores what happens when evil strikes. The Indian filming unearthing the beauty and terror of the locale is used to good effect with the score remembering not to over-arch itself in terms of fake emotional cues.

‘Hotel Mumbai’ is an often disturbing, inspiring and striking reminder of terrorism’s vast reach. The commendable bravery of those who fought back against this is very well realized. It shows how terrorism can never ultimately win if we don’t give up and stand together to ensure such acts are as infrequent as possible.

Rating out of 10: 8