“Us”- Movie Review
If I had told you years ago that Jordan Peele- a seasoned veteran of a sketch comedy show and one half of a widely popular comedy duo- would eventually become a critically and commercially lauded auteur of horror cinema, would you have believed me? Maybe, but maybe not. There’s no doubt that the man is super talented. But I don’t think anybody anticipated the level of thought-provoking creativity that he’d go on to display as a filmmaker.
His latest project, Us, is yet another showcase of his ability. While not nearly as clever as his 2017 debut, Get Out, the film still feels like it stems from the same vision. It stars Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke (both of whom of Black Panther fame, funny enough) as Adelaide and Gabriel Wilson, a married couple who travel with their children (Evan Alex and Shahadi Wright Joseph) to Santa Cruz for a family vacation. All is well until a group of mysterious strangers appears at their doorstep late one night. The unwelcome visitors break in and make themselves comfortable before revealing what they really are- doppelgangers. Where did they come from? Why are they here? The Wilsons must fight for their survival in order to find out.
People are already labeling this film a masterpiece, and its director one of the best filmmakers of our current time. While I do agree that Peele has earned the recognition as being a serious contender in the entertainment industry, I think it’s a little too early to be considering him as one of the greats. For me, directors have to pass the Triple Threat test: if they put out at least three projects that are consistently of strong quality, then it’ll be cemented in my mind that yes, so-and-so filmmaker is for sure a top-tier player. Us is only Peele’s second film, but its further evidence of his potential.
All of the actors carry the movie pretty well, even through weak points in the narrative. Winston Duke is decent, and the child actors do a good job. Lupita Nyong’o’s performance is particularly strong, although the raspy voice she uses for her doppelganger is more distracting than it is scary. Their chemistry, for the most part, is solid. The opening act is a bit shaky. The family dynamics seem awkward, and it’s reflected in the dialogue. You can argue that maybe this was done on purpose as a tension-building technique. If that’s the case, I’ll argue that it could’ve been executed better.
With all of that out of the way, only one question remains: Is the film scary? My answer is not really. As I said before, it does a good job at building up the tension and suspense, and so the set-ups for the scares are well-done. The payoffs just didn’t totally deliver for me. To be fair, Get Out had the same effect. However, the difference between the two is that the ideas in Get Out were much more clever and disturbing than the ideas conveyed in Us. So when the scares did happen, they left more of an impression. The scares in Us are entertaining. Just don’t expect them to give you lasting nightmares.
Then again, I wouldn’t be surprised if anybody got freaked out by this film. Us does a lot of things right. Much of it it has to do with the amount of thought that went into the visual execution of its story. If the narrative itself had been stronger, we could’ve gotten another Get Out. As is, it deserves a watch. Even if you don’t get scared, you’ll be wickedly entertained.