Us Review

A filmmaker hasn’t generated this much buzz for original thrillers since M. Night Shyamalan, and hopefully that’s not a sign for the career to come for Jordan Peele. “Us,” at least, proves Peele has plenty up his sleeve, and that his talent is as much about craft as it is about a clever twisty premise.

“Us” does plenty to warrant more analysis than mere comparisons to “Get Out,” but it too begins with a compelling prologue and from there on out keeps the viewer completely alert and engaged. Peele has a true gift for settling us into his protagonist’s perspective and keeping us perpetually unnerved and on alert. This kind of technique ultimately puts a ton of pressure on final act twists and a satisfying resolution, but — more on that later (spoiler free).

After a traumatic childhood event in which she saw a doppelganger, Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) ventures back with her family to the Santa Cruz beach where the incident occurred. That night, she, her husband (Winston Duke) and two children (Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex) encounter their doppelgangers wearing red jumpsuits and wielding scissors. Terror, understandably, ensues.

“Us” is a difficult film to dive into without spoiling anything, but Nyong’o’s performance can be extoled regardless. Keep in mind the Oscar winner plays two versions of herself, and while each version calls for drastically different skill sets, there is an obscured, fragile sameness that just makes the performance all the stronger. She’s an unreal talent. Duke plays comedic foil, a reminder of Peele’s chops in that department and helping counter the imposing through-line of tension in this movie.

As with “Get Out” (last or second to last comparison, I swear), “Us” employs horror in a way that extends beyond the jump scares of today’s horror movies. Dread — and the threat of violence and jump scares — permeates this film and keeps it tense. There are some violent moments, and even ones that cross into campy horror gore/humor, but “Us” has a lot more going for it than trying to scare its audience.

A lot of the film is tied up in “what’s actually going on here?” and Peele offers plenty of breadcrumbs without detracting from the experience of answering that question. Although his worst decision in this entire movie involves how some of that information is revealed, so much happens visually and with the way the plot unfolds that there’s more to walk away with than simply whether you found that information satisfying. Nevertheless, the film will raise a lot of eyebrows for a lot of people who see it.

What made “Get Out” special was that it was a genre experience about something pertinent and culturally relevant. That seems to be in play in “Us,” it just takes more digging and coaxing to find and make those connections. In “Get Out,” race issues were never far from the surface and often flat-out busted through. “Us” tries to bite off something bigger that requires some untangling, so there isn’t the same degree of more immediate satisfaction. Still, there are numerous thrills, fantastic filmmaking and winning performances to lift “Us” way over the bar for a follow-up to an Oscar-winning debut film.

4/5 Stars

Written and Directed by Jordan Peele
Starring: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex


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