Not as sensational in execution as ‘Get Out’, but Jordan Peele’s sophomore effort retains the writer-director’s conceptual nous in this decent follow-up.
Dir. Jordan Peele
2019 | USA | Horror/Thriller/Mystery | 116 mins | 2.39:1 | English
NC16 (passed clean) for violence/terror, and language
Cast: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss
Plot: A family’s serenity turns to chaos when a group of doppelgängers begins to terrorize them.
Distributor: United International Pictures
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
(Reviewed in theatres)
The anticipation is high for this one, so are expectations. But while it is difficult to top his Oscar-winning feature debut Get Out (2017), writer-director Jordan Peele’s sophomore effort very much retains his conceptual nous, although it is nowhere as sensational in execution as his breakthrough first movie.
I think the main problem is that its sense of structure, one that necessitates the use of flashbacks to provide plot info and some kind of ‘back story’, hampers the film from going all out and all the way.
The premise is fascinating: the prologue set in the 1980s sees Adelaide, then a young girl, who wanders into a ‘House of Mirrors’-type space in an amusement park only to discover something incredibly disturbing and traumatic about herself.
“If you wanna get crazy, we can get crazy!”
Move forward to present day, a married Adelaide (now played by Lupita Nyong’o in a, or should I say, two brilliant performances) and her family realise that they are haunted—or perhaps more accurately, hunted—by their doppelgangers out to ‘replace’ them.
With Nyong’o leading the way, Us very much rides on her work and mostly solid cast to deliver both in the horror and comedy fronts. It is less hilarious or scathing than Get Out, but Us is a more ambitious film, and where the former dealt incisively with issues of race, the latter is very much a treatise on class problems.
It is not difficult to read into the subtext of the poor and disenfranchised rising up to claim what they deserve—their soul and humanity. As Peele has attested, the title ‘Us’ refers to the collective, be it the family, society or country.
Lupita Nyong’o based her character’s doppelganger’s voice on Robert F. Kennedy Jr and specifically the spasmodic dysphonia he suffers from.
In light of the increasing number of terror attacks by white supremacists over the last decade, one might even see Us as a cautionary ‘what if’ tale. What if the far-right fundamentalists one day develop some kind of political power to legitimise replacing the status quo?
Us continues Peele’s ascendancy as a director-to-watch. He possesses that rare quality of using and circumventing genre conventions to his advantage, often teasing out a dark if richly-developed world to which he subjects his characters to. His worlds are terrifying, though in Us the world-building is flawed in a number of ways—hence it is best to see this as a decent conceptual exercise.