After the cultural phenomenon that was Get Out, Jordan Peele’s second outing has had a lot to live up too. Us shares a lot of the same DNA as its predecessor yet feels like its own film, proving that Peele is far from a one-hit-wonder.
Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o), her husband Gabe (Winston Duke) and their two children, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex) are a well-off family visiting their beach house in Santa Cruz. After a string of strange coincidences, the family are visited in the night by strangers wielding golden scissors. Us is best experienced knowing as little about it as possible, but if you’ve seen the trailer you’ll know that these visitors look familiar…
What follows is one of the most well-crafted horror films seen in years. Us works on a multitude of levels, but first and foremost the film is scary. From Michael Abels’ haunting score (and the genius remix of I Got 5 on It) to Mike Gioulakis’ stunning cinematography, the film on a technical level is incredible. Peele proves once again just how talented of a writer he is. Just like his Oscar winning Get Out, his screenplay for Us is layered with callbacks, foreshadowing and a perfect blend of horror, suspense and genuine humour. Not only that, but his direction is also hard to fault as the film’s obsession with mirror images is reflected throughout.
The family dynamic feels genuine thanks to some great performances all around, (Winston Duke shines as the comic relief in Gabe) but it’s Lupita Nyong’o who steals the show as Adelaide. The way she conveys trauma, fear and even guilt through her eyes is extraordinary. It’s a layered performance which has more nuance upon multiple viewings. It’s fantastic to see a horror film led by a woman of colour as Nyong’o, six years after winning her Oscar, gets her first leading role. Nyong’o is somehow even better as Adelaide’s double, Red. The way Red moves and carries herself is so distinct, but it’s her voice that is already iconic. She gives a masterclass in playing a protagonist and antagonist, often in the very same scene.
Whilst the film is entertaining enough to work as a popcorn flick, similar to Get Out, the film is rich in satirical subtext, albeit a little deeper under the surface. Already audiences are debating what Us is actually about, as the flexibility of its central premise lends the film incredibly well to interpretation and debate. It could easily be read as a critique of capitalism, revisionist history, class, gender, race, masculinity and the ways that trauma affects us. But most of all, the film is about America. When asked what the doppelgängers are, they respond “we’re Americans.” Even the title of the film can be read as U.S.
Although I predict that certain ambiguous elements in the film, as well as a few creative choices in the third-act, may alienate some viewers, Us is another smash hit from the man many are already dubbing the next Hitchcock. He’s not the next Hitchcock, he’s the first Jordan Peele.
Image credit: Movie DB