US (2019)

us

 “Who are you?”

“We’re Americans”

A scathing attack on the polarising, binary state of American (and many other countries’) politics and today’s society or just a straight up horror film? You decide.
Commentary on class, race and privilege is on show here but never gets in the way of a good ‘ole scare.

It’s clear Jordan Peele has lots to say and chooses to do it via the often maligned or nichey, horror genre. Not usually the normal route for the passing on of opinion and criticism, although George A Romero did it brilliantly with ‘…the Dead’ zombie series as did John Carpenter with They Live and it’s attack on consumerism. Any shopping mall within the world at the moment doesn’t seem so different from the zombie overrun one in Dawn of the Dead and looking at the way the advertising hordes are after your mind and your money, how far are we really away from many aspects of They Live?

Peele delivered a cutting commentary of the deep wounds of racism and the current effects of the race relations in the magnificent Get Out and now he tackles the ‘Us and Them’ opposites of the way the country is in the uber-relevant midst of in 2019.

The film begins in 1986 with Adelaide Wilson, a young girl on holiday with her parents in Santa Cruz. She strays away from them and enters a funhouse that will forever change her. Cut to present day and now played by Lupita Nyong’o, she is heading to her old family vacation home in Santa Cruz with her husband Gabe (Winston Duke) and her two children, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex). Adelaide is apprehensive about returning to the place of the disturbing incident from her childhood but tries to get in the spirit of the trip. They meet their aspirational friends Josh & Kitty Tyler (Eric Heidecker and Elisabeth Moss) and their twin daughters, Becca (Cali Sheldon) and Lyndsey (Noelle Sheldon) at the beach close to the eerie funhouse from Adelaide’s childhood and things take a strange turn from here.

I will not reveal anything more about the plot. I had been excited about this for a while and stayed away from any information about the narrative or even the set up.

No trailers, no reviews, no nuttin’. Recently I’ve been trying to see films with as little information as possible to maximize my own enjoyment. I managed to do so pretty well with Captain Marvel. Again, not trailers, no reading, no nuttin’. No mean feat. It’s a fun experiment.

Hands across AmericaHands Across America

There is commentary here about the duality in humans and shadow and light plays a big part, the fear of the other and the self adorned illusion that these are separate and not two sides of the same coin. This division is happening in America and across the world.
We seem to be in an “Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet” place and this is definitely on show here.

Lupita Nyong’o continues to shine and add to her stellar collection of work and it’s great to see Winston Duke getting a bigger turn and more coverage, his comedy chops are on display here and his star is also on the rise. Elisabeth Moss (always brilliant) and Tim Heidecker (of Tim & Eric fame) who owns the best named boat in film to date ‘The B’Yacht’Ch’, have a LOAD of fun as the protagonists friends and the two main kids (Joseph & Alex) feel rooted in the world, as crazy as it gets.

There are plenty of scares and eerie tones at play and the soundtrack by Michael Abel works very well with the images. Anthem is especially strong as a creepy theme. Not to mention the killer tunes and beautiful placement in the film.
Luniz, anyone? N.W.A., anyone?

Whilst not as tight or sparky as his debut, his sophomore effort shows that Peele is no fluke. His knowledge of cinema and horror films, and referencing amongst others, Hitchcock, Kubrick and Spielberg, is real and I’m looking forward to watching this new director’s work as he traverses through the map of this business called film-making.
And all this from one half of the mighty Key & Peele sketch comedy duo.
Who’da thunk it? I had 5 on it.

It’s not about drugsIt’s a dope song.”

4/5

 

 

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BASTILLE DAY (2016)

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‘Michael Mason (Richard Madden, ‘GAME OF THRONES’) is an American pickpocket living in Paris who finds himself hunted by the CIA when he steals a bag that contains more than just a wallet. Sean Briar (Idris Elba, ‘LUTHER’, THE WIRE), the field agent on the case, soon realises that Michael is just a pawn in a much bigger game and is also his best asset to uncover a large-scale conspiracy. Going against commands, Briar recruits Michael to use his expert pickpocketing skills to help quickly track down the source of the corruption. As a 24hr thrill ride ensues, the unlikely duo discover they are both targets and must rely upon each other in order to take down a common enemy.’

James Watkins (Eden Lake, The Woman in Black) directs this action thriller that has a dash of Die Hard, a flicker of French Connection, a bit of Bourne and a splash of the French tv cop show, Braquo. Watkins has made an assured, above average thriller, the set pieces are well put together creating the right amount of excitement and tension. The rooftop chase is a highlight.

Richard Madden delivers the perfect amount of charm and vulnerability as Michael Mason, a man caught up in a wrong man situation not of his choosing. He plays a pickpocket, a talented pilferer who is working in Paris. In the opening scene he uses a very public distracting technique that makes his job ever so easy, why didn’t anyone else think of this?
He steals the wrong bag and finds himself a target.
Enter Idris Elba playing Sean Briar, a C.I.A. agent working intelligence in Paris, France who is given the job of recovering Mason. Idris gives spot on one man army. In a spot of witty dialogue between the two leads, Elba asks Madden “Why did you run?”
To which Madden replies, “You were coming after me……Have you seen yourself?”
Indeed, at 6ft4 he cuts an imposing figure.
Elba and Madden make a good team with subtly believable chemistry and there is very little mugging for the camera. Assured support comes from French/Canadian actress Charlotte Le Bon, English Kelly Reilly and French actors Thierry Godard and José Garcia. This is the film’s biggest strength, it’s European pedigree and Paris setting. Quite refreshing.

Bastille Day is in a better league than the majority of the studio thrillers.
Don’t be fooled, this is better than the average releases.

There are terrorists here who aren’t muslim and don’t have a religious agenda. This is so refreshing. Finally, a thriller with no anti …….(add media baddies of the day) propaganda. In fact, this kneejerk blame tactic is used by the media in the film and those responsible using this prejudice to their own poisonous agendas. Gone is the flag waving of many recent American thrillers and a more layered, multi cultural, Parisian feel replaces it making it closer to the the tone of the American films of the ’70’s, which were massively influenced by the French New wave and European films.

The music used in the film is fun with Reverend Black Grape by Black Grape and it’s always a good day when Shaun Ryder is heard in a big film. Also worth a mention is the Norman Cook/Idris Elba collaboration that is played during the end credits, The Road Less Travelled.

An entertaining Friday night thriller.

3.5/5