Longtime funnyman Jordan Peele burst into the movie scene with the unexpected horror hit, Get Out (2017), and as with sophomore efforts, there is intense scrutiny to determine if he can cut it, or go home. Well, question it no more because with this second film, about a family terrorised by their apparent doppelgangers while on a vacation, there are strong indicators that Peele has only just begun his artistic journey.
It’s usually difficult for a director to produce a film that is capable of living up to the same hype and calibre as their first good film, and yet Peele managed to do it. Much like Peele’s Oscar-winning Get Out, it is difficult to pin Us down to one particular genre. It starts out as a standard home-invasion movie that evolves into a slasher movie, before turning into some psychological-horror-thriller movie with insane sci-fi elements.
Peele’s ability to transcend the standard horror movie genre and cliches, to give audiences something new is a definite testament to his skills as a screenwriter, producer, and director.
The film centres around Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o, Black Panther and Star Wars: The Force Awakens) returning back to her family’s vacation cabin with her husband Gabe Wilson (Winston Duke, another Black Panther alumnus) and their two kids, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex). The movie starts out light and happy enough, with the family happily settling into the cabin and taking a trip to the Santa Cruz Beach, a beach that we learn early on, is actually a source of trauma for Adelaide.
Through the early scenes, constant flashbacks to Adelaide’s past paints a picture that everything is not as beautiful as it seems, with the tone of the film getting gradually more ominous as the movie goes on. Things really get serious when the Wilsons start getting terrorised by another family. A family that looks almost exactly like them, only they are all dressed in red jumpsuits and carry around large gold scissors, and clearly, do not have good intentions where the Wilsons are concerned.
From there the movie picks off, and while there are plenty of creepy, intense moments and jumpscares, Peele balances it perfectly with some hilarious moments, mostly thanks to Gabe, whose happy-go-lucky attitude provides a perfect counterbalance to Adelaide’s more sombre personality as things go from bad to worse. Even when being terrorised by the doppelgangers, or Tethered as they like to be called, Gabe still manages to throw in a joke or pop culture reference every now and then. This self-awareness of how ludicrous the situation in the film helps to keep the movie from taking itself too seriously.
The kids, Zora and Jason, also get numerous chances to shine throughout the movie. It’s enjoyable to watch the siblings pit themselves against their creepy opposites, with Jason’s doppelganger being an animalistic pyromaniac, and Zora’s wearing a constant eerie smile on her fast and like Zora, can run really fast. Peele spends valuable time fleshing out the characters of the children, to help show how integral the kids are to the movie, and so that we the audience will know that they are in no way weak and vulnerable, and can very much hold their own.
Of course, the true star of the show is Lupita Nyong’o who shows the depth of her acting chops, portraying the serious and somewhat manic Adelaide, and her Tethered counterpart Red. Unlike the other doppelgangers, Adelaide and Red share a past mired in pain and mistakes, and it is up to Nyong’o to ensure that both the characters are stretched as far away from each other as possible, while still being irrevocably co-dependant on the other.
Another standout from the movie is the music, produced by the amazing Michael Abels who also produced the soundtrack to Get Out. It’s surprising to find out that Us is only Abels’ second time designing music for a big budget film – it is just too good. From the opening anthem that is reminiscent of choir music, to the creepy instrumental rendition of Luniz’s “I Got 5 on It” which is used during one of the movie’s more dramatic moments, every score helps to set the tone perfectly and adds to the movie rather than detracts from it.
While Us has many different messages that can be taken away from it, we believe the main one to be that our actions, no matter how big or small, will always have consequences, they will come back to haunt us (quite literally in this case). Of course, a different person can watch the film and draw a completely different meaning to the film. That’s again, a testament to how good a screenwriter Peele is.
That being said, Us is a film that is best looked at as a whole, it is when you try to look too closely into the many details the film possesses that it starts to crumble onto itself. This is mainly due to the fact that unlike Get Out which was much more concise in scale, Us is an ambitious movie that tries to tackle and raise a lot of issues, but while doing so, it also forgets to tie up its own loose ends.
Huge kudos go out to the actors for not just playing their character, but an evil mirror image of themselves too. Peele knocked it out pretty far out the park with this film, barring an ending that can leave many scratching their heads, the rest of the movie is still a great horror-thriller movie to watch.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
An entertaining family horror-thriller about doppelgangers that asks you to focus more on the forest, and not the trees. It hits all the right notes with its characters and music. Will definitely recommend you to watch if you are a fan of Peele’s first movie, Get Out.
Story - 8.5/10
Direction - 8/10
Characterisation - 9.5/10
Geek Satisfaction - 9.5/10