Amazon Prime’s new erotic thriller, The Voyeurs, easily emerges as one of my favorite films of the year in more ways than one. What starts as a simple plot with a cute couple moving into a gorgeous loft apartment escalates into pearl-clutching moments of shocking intensity. Writer/director Michael Morgan, creator of the excellent but short-lived Netflix series Everything Sucks!, crafts a magnum opus that would have made its obvious inspiration (Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window) proud.
Thomas (Justice Smith) and Pippa (Sydney Sweeney) are taking a huge step as a couple—they’re moving into their first apartment together! They both have similar goals in mind: no kids for at least 4 years, and a future spent with plenty of “wonderful terrible decisions.” Pippa spent her twenties studying in a medical library to fulfill her dreams of ophthalmology, while Thomas devoted his to “some shitty punk band,” so their focus now is just having fun living together. The Voyeurs spends the bulk of its earlier scenes setting up the cutesy vibe between them. Pippa has mostly been off social media in an attempt to boost their sex life, and Thomas wants to pick up the accordion to help expand his musical horizons.
Their new dream home has one fatal flaw—it directly overlooks an apartment in the opposite building that has zero blocking of its wide-open windows. Now, Thomas and Pippa have a peeping eye into the exhibitionist lives of a gorgeous couple. One is a sleazy photographer named Seb (Ben Hardy), the other is a more timid ex-model named Julia (Natasha Liu Bordizzo). At first, watching their sexual exploits from afar is titillating for Thomas and Pippa, and throws spice into their relationship when Pippa comes home with a pair of binoculars. But Pippa’s curiosity morphs into an obsession that threatens to topple both relationships in a domino-effect of impending disaster.
For a film that sexualizes voyeurism, The Voyeurs is brimming with rich characters and shocking twists. The double-meaning of the title extends out to Pippa’s eye-adjacent field of work, the recurring image of a cracking egg splitting open juxtaposed against an eye procedure, and of course the physical act of peering in on someone’s life. Watching the way voyeurism sends ripple effects across the relationship of the central duo provides the majority of the entertainment value.
All four of the main performances are noteworthy, and contribute to the narrative in significant ways. As the sexually active but destructive neighbors, Ben Hardy and Natasha Liu Bordizzo leave an indelible imprint. Justice Smith, who I have loved in everything from Detective Pikachu to HBO Max’s massively underrated Genera+ion, portrays complexity and humor in Thomas that may not have existed on the script page. The biggest surprise for me was Sydney Sweeney. Her raw unflinching turn as Pippa helps to morph The Voyeurs into a fascinating window of cinema. In the final act, Sweeney flips through scary extremes to fulfill Pippa’s dark obsession.
Twist after twist left me on my toes at all times, unsure of what would happen next. With a runtime of just over 2 hours, The Voyeurs does not waste a second getting off the ground. There are real tangible consequences for every character’s actions. Pippa and Thomas are deeply flawed, and this helps make them feel like real people. Nothing is sugar-coated or over-explained for the audience, which means paying close attention to the details for optimal enjoyment. For the devoted mystery viewer, The Voyeurs may prove to be one of the best surprises of 2021. Here’s to making some “wonderful terrible decisions!”
The Voyeurs pulls out the binoculars when it debuts exclusively on Amazon Prime, Friday, September 10th.
Check out our interview with Ben Hardy, Justice Smith, Michael Mohan, and Sydney Sweeney.