Film Review – Us (2019)
Get Out was a comet that smacked into the middle of the public consciousness, igniting a groundswell of buzz, discussion, and more memes than Twitter could handle. It’s one of the few word-of-mouth successes in the modern era of moviemaking, and it was going to take a Herculean effort to follow it up and capture even a fraction of the same success within the zeitgeist. But now here comes Us, which is a bit more of a “Rorschach,” as Jordan Peele himself has noted.
I couldn’t agree more.
The following review will be spoiler free.
Directed By: Jordan Peele
Written By: Jordan Peele
Adelaide Wilson (Nyong’o) and her husband Gabe (Duke) take a trip to the beach with their two children (Joseph and Alex) in hopes of having a fun, family getaway. The problem is that Adelaide is feeling more anxious and apprehensive by the second, as she had a traumatic experience in the area many years ago as a child.
As eerie coincidences begin to happen with more frequency, Adelaide senses that something awful is about to happen to the family. And at that precise moment, a family dressed in red jumpsuits appears on their driveway…and they quickly break into the Wilson’s house.
However, these aren’t any ordinary burglars: their evil doppelgängers of the Wilsons.
Question: Is Jordan Peele the New Master of Suspense?
The brand-name director (i.e. a director that makes original movies with some prestige that are overwhelming financial successes) has rapidly declined as Hollywood shifts towards IP-driven blockbuster faire. You most likely don’t remember that Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden directed Captain Marvel, yet the film is well on its way to $1 billion at the global box office.
There’s only a few left at this point. Christopher Nolan and Quentin Tarantino are realistically the only names that can open a movie anymore with an absolute assurance of profit. Even the great Martin Scorsese suffered from a large financial setback with 2016’s Silence (even if it was still a damn good film.) It was a breath of fresh air to see Us being sold hard behind Peele’s name. He became an instant leader in horror after Get Out, and Us is set for a massive opening that far exceeds that of his debut.
Which brings us to the film equivalent of holding a championship belt: The Master of Suspense. The moniker has been unofficially passed from successful genre director to successful genre director after Hitchcock finished up, but it certainly hasn’t fully unpacked its bags at each of those stops. Is Peele the next in line? Many other outlets seem to think so, and Us definitely helps his cause.
I wouldn’t exactly say that Us was “tense.” It creates its new brand of feeling by being so damn odd every chance it gets. Us perfectly mixes tension and comedy to create its own special sauce of feeling. It’s overwhelming in a different way, one that washes over you in a wave of delicious eccentricities.
I truly enjoy when a movie isn’t afraid to get strange. Most of the cast is going for broke in dual roles, especially Lupita Nyong’o in her first leading role. (How shocking is that?) Her performance as the doppelgänger Red is something I will most likely not forget. It’s creepy, funny, and always peculiar. And honestly, I don’t want to ruin any of it for you here. It’s something that is most striking when knowing the very least about it. (A special shout out goes to Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker for gonzo performances of their own that are often incredibly funny.) Winston Duke also deserves a mention for being very, very funny at all times.
Jordan Peele has a firm hand on this entire movie, using a surprising amount of humor as the release of many of the horror sequences. That’s one of the harder feats of filmmaking to pull off. Us will probably go down as one of the best comedies of 2019 for yours truly. I don’t know if this qualifies him as The Master of Suspense, but he’s definitely the master of something.
Us Will Benefit from Repeat Viewings
Us is one of those movies that comes around every so often that is nearly impossible to discuss it in a spoiler free context. Every piece of this film is tied to an essential plot point or reveal.
But on the plus side: there are a LOT of layers to sift through here, which is what makes Us so interesting. Like with Get Out, Us firmly rests in the “social thriller” category that Peele has made up for his films. It has so many discussions rested beneath its visceral slasher sequences that I’m sure we’ll be inundated with thousands of videos on YouTube entitled “The Ending of Us EXPLAINED!”, or “This is What Us REALLY Means!”, or some derivation of the two.
Jordan Peele must also be lauded for his visual style in this respect. He’s working with a much more broad scope this time around, and he’s even improved as a filmmaker. One shot of a frisbee is now etched into my brain.
One of the most important elements in someone becoming a bankable director is the rewatchability factor of their films. Just think about how many people study and discuss Christopher Nolan’s movies to a nauseatingly loud degree. Word of mouth will ultimately drive the level of fame one creator receives. I think Peele has given viewers plenty to chew on here, even if Us probably won’t be as universally acclaimed as Get Out because of its searing and daring tendencies.
Jordan Peele is Developing a Frustrating Habit
Peele is obviously one imaginative dude. It takes a special brain to come up with the stories in both Get Out and Us. That’s why I truly hope for the best for career moving forward, even if I haven’t completely fallen in love with either of his films yet.
Ironically, I think his creativity often does him in. He throws so many ideas and storytelling devices onto the screen at once that each of his films have had to stop dead in their tracks and explain themselves. Personally, I’ve found that Peele’s films are overwritten. Us is even a worse culprit of this than Get Out, as it stops on multiple occasions to sit down and tell the audience exactly what is happening. One line in particular from Nyong’o’s Red is essentially the thesis statement of the entire film, and I don’t think I could have groaned any harder than I did upon hearing it. At times, I had the feeling that Us doesn’t trust its audience.
No one would ever accuse Jordan Peele of being unbelievably subtle — it doesn’t take a nuclear physicist to figure out that the title of the film is a thinly veiled abbreviation of “United States” — but I just wish that he didn’t have the need to overexplain. Doing so only opens the door for all of us to nitpick some of the logical inconsistencies in the film.
I want to sit down with a copy of Us and study it for hours on end. Even when it falters — and it is unquestionably frustrating at times — it remains endlessly watchable and odd.
The main cast is having the time of their acting lives in dual roles, especially Lupita Nyong’o who will be endlessly discussed for the next few months. You’ll want to laugh out loud and hide your eyes at the same time, which is probably the hardest combination to pull off in film.
I imagine that Us will be more of a lightning rod than Get Out, but there’s no denying its craft and vision.
Thank you for reading! What are you thoughts on Us? Comment down below!
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