Us and Hotel Mumbai
Welcome back! This post is going to be a double feature review for Us and Hotel Mumbai. Us is a horror film that was directed by Jordan Peele. It's a very unique movie that illustrates some cultural themes. Hotel Mumbai is a thriller that was based on true events, chronicling the mayhem of a terrorist attack that occurred in 2008. The human race watches a lot of violent movies, but destruction isn't fun in real life and that part is clear in Hotel Mumbai. Keep reading to find out my thoughts about both films.
Let's begin with Us. The movie is told through the Wilson family's point of view during their vacation in Santa Cruz. After coming home from an outing on the beach, they encounter their evil counterparts or dopplegangers. These frightening beings terrorize the family with a very direct intent. Ultimately, the story unfolds with mystery, scares, violence, and several thought provoking moments.
This film didn't blow me away, but it definitely has good elements. Most of the actors brought a lot strong elements to the movie. Lupita Nyong'o plays the Wilson's matriarch, Adelaide, and she was the star of the film. Overall, Lupita is an exceptional actress and this performance is another strong addition to her resume. She plays Adelaide and her evil doppleganger very well with a lot of depth and range. Winston Duke plays Gabe, Adelaide's husband, and he brought a lot of humor to an otherwise dark story. He was quite refreshing and entertaining. The teenage daughter and young son were played by Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex respectively. Both of them had pretty good range for young actors, bringing different elements to the children and their dark twins. Truthfully, the actors made the film a lot more watchable and interesting.
It's not a boring film either. Us moves along at a solid pace and keeps the entertainment value amped up. It has a good mixture of thrills, humor, and unusual elements. The movie is creative and quite a bit different than most horror films. I also found the story very simple and straight forward as well. Believe me, that's a good thing. This film could have been very confusing and convoluted, but it actually makes sense.
Jordan Peele has a his own style of directing. Us is surprisingly artistic with interesting choices in cinematography. Even though it's not one of my favorite horror films, I'll definitely give Peele credit for his craftsmanship. In some ways, it feels a little bit like an art house film, made in the vein of A24's releases.
Now I'm moving on to the movie's weakest elements. Some components don't work very well. Many viewers will find plot holes, inconsistencies, and continuity errors. Jordan Peele will often ask his audience to think deeply while they're watching his work, but that can be a problem sometimes because they'll notice the film's problems. I don't want to give away spoilers, but many elements don't add up if you pay attention.
Is this movie scary? Unfortunately, it's not particularly scary at all. The marketing doesn't help the film very much. It's not a true horror movie. Us is more like a horror comedy with social commentaries and action scenes. This film doesn't have a lot of tension, jump scares, or bloody scenes. I would say it's more weird than frightening. It also dives really deep into another genre, but I'll remain vague because that would be another spoiler.
I'm pretty sure this film will be anticlimactic for several viewers. It's a little bit difficult to explain. You'll either connect with the story or not. It's actually not a bad movie, but this particular story probably appeals to niche audiences better than the mainstream. I just think it will be too weird for a lot of people.
Should you see Us in theaters? That's a hard question to answer. I would say give it a shot if you're curious. You might think it's amazing. I'm pretty sure a lot of people will enjoy it more than I did. Just don't expect it to be a hardcore scary movie.
Hotel Mumbai has a very different take on violence than Us. This film was inspired by true events that happened in 2008. A group of radicalized youths from Pakistan invaded Mumbai, killing at least one hundred and sixty-six civilians at a train station, café, and other locations. Most of the story takes place in the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, where the terrorists continued their violent rampage. This might seem like a controversial movie, but it fits within our current climate and brings a realistic vision of widespread violence.
I actually felt really disappointed with this film because it has a lot of issues. But I can probably summarize its stronger elements in one paragraph. Hotel Mumbai is shockingly realistic and it doesn't sugarcoat anything. Cinema tends to glamorize violence and it can give people false impressions. In reality, violence isn't fun and this film boldly shows a more accurate concept of terrorism. It's visceral, eye opening, and difficult to watch. I believe this movie raises awareness about violence in the real world and it sends an effective message. People are often dismissive about violence and terrorism because it's an uncomfortable subject, but ignoring it won't change anything. Once in a while, we need a film that tells the truth instead of showcasing a romanticized tale of heroes and villains.
Unfortunately, Hotel Mumbai is lackluster in many ways. It has a bunch of technical problems, including bad cinematography. For example, the picture was blurry sometimes and I know it wasn't a problem with the theater's projector. The cameramen also used a ton of shaky cam during most of the violent scenes. I'm not a fan of that cinematography style. It's hard on the eyes and makes the scene disorienting. This film was directed by Anthony Maras and it didn't seem like he was capable of putting everything together very well. Even the story and characters don't stand out. I wouldn't say the movie is disorganized, but the final product is unimpressive and it's the director's job to identify major issues.
It's worth nothing that I didn't connect with any characters. That problem hurts the movie significantly. When lives are at stake, it's important to feel invested in the characters. The viewer should care if they live or die. This film has an ensemble cast and that might not have been the right choice. Ensemble casts work great for certain movies, but in this case, nobody has a chance to shine. Most of the characters lack a backstory and considerable screen time. Honestly, I'm not going to care if a character dies when they only appeared in a couple scenes. Certain elements were also used as copouts. For example, Dev Patel's character, named Arjun, has a pregnant wife and a small child. That part is supposed to make you care about him, even though his character isn't fleshed out. A couple with a baby is vacationing in the hotel. You're supposed to care about the child because it's a baby. Isn't that enough? Not really. I'm not going to tell you who lives and dies because that would be a spoiler, but many of the death scenes didn't seem meaningful enough.
I have a really huge complaint. The characters have unbelievably bad survival instincts. Nobody is smart enough to run out the front door! When bullets start flying, get the heck out of there! I only remember one minor character escaping through the front door. Nobody leaves through the back door either. In general, the characters just hide and hope someone will rescue them. Ultimately, the characters are trapping themselves and it becomes very easy for the terrorists to pick them off. The film also has plenty of opportunities for retaliation and the characters don't take advantage of it. When a terrorist has his back turned, grab one of those handy items and crack his head open. But this movie needs a huge body count, so the characters aren't allowed to be resourceful. By the way, this hotel has a kitchen staff and I don't remember anyone using knives as weapons during the most prime opportunities. I realize anything can happen in a disastrous situation and many people will die during a major attack, but this went above my suspension of belief. The film seems exploitative to a certain extent because the writing forces the characters to make bad decisions that will lead to gruesome death scenes. Something just doesn't feel right about it.
Overall, Hotel Mumbai is a missed opportunity. It could have sent a powerful message to both critics and general audiences. But a sloppy execution ultimately hurt the film's integrity. It has some really good moments, but the low points brought everything down a few notches. Don't bother seeing this movie in theaters. In fact, a lot of people won't be able to handle this film at all. It's pretty disturbing.
That's the end of both reviews. Have you seen either of these movies yet? Leave your opinion in the comment section. On a different note, I had a really good time at WonderCon. Next week, I'm going to post my photos from the event. My photo gallery has a good combination of cosplayers and exhibitors. So, come back next weekend to check it out. Thanks for reading my reviews and I'll see you guys soon.
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