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Film Review – Us (2019)

Us

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.

Synopsis

Directed By: Jordan Peele

Written By: Jordan Peele

Starring: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Anna Diop

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.

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image via High Snobiety

Answer: Possibly.

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.

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image via Bloody Disgusting

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.

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image via Vanity Fair

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 overwrittenUs 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.

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image via Movie City News

Final Thoughts

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.

Grade: B+

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image via The Austin Chronicle


Thank you for reading! What are you thoughts on Us? Comment down below!

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Nick Kush

A current young professional, Nick founded MovieBabble in October of 2016 in order to provide insightful film analysis that is meant to educate and entertain. Nick is also a member of the Internet Film Critics Society. You can follow Nick at the official MovieBabble Twitter account @MovieBabble_

17 Responses

  1. Sam Simon says:

    Great review! I agree with you, multiple views may be a good idea with this movie. I didn’t enjoy it as much as Get out, mainly because of the story… but it’s still an impressive movie!

    I wrote about it on my blog, if you want to take a look!

  2. Drew Rader says:

    I’ve been reading your reviews since around the time you started and I’ve felt like sort of a lurker in that I never comment. But, your writing has become so professional and telling (not to say it hasn’t always been good). It’s admirable how much time and effort you’ve put in as well!

    • Nick Kush says:

      Thanks so much my man!! Really appreciate the kind words!! There’s certainly been a lot of hard work over the 2+ years since I’ve — and I’m definitely not stopping any time soon!

  3. jddunsany says:

    I have a similar, slightly ambivalent response to you. Overall, I liked it. And, like you, I want to sit down and watch it again with a notebook and pen. But, I think its three act structure is too obvious and, by and large, means that the suspense generated by the second family’s appearance on the driveway is squandered.

    The second family just didn’t feel as threatening as I thought they could, too. That said, there are some gloriously disturbing moments and the sense that there’s a fecund and ferocious intelligence behind the camera is palpable. A very interesting film. And review! Thank you!

    • Nick Kush says:

      I actually sort of liked that they just appear on the driveway. It was kind of like…LOOK! We’re here! There was a certain inevitability to it, which I thought worked because Lupita Nyong’o’s character was getting more and more suspicious by the second that something was going to happen. But I absolutely hear where you are coming from!

      • jddunsany says:

        The appearance on the driveway is fantastic. It’s the speed – and (relative) lack of tension – in the home invasion I have a bit of a problem with. Everyone ends up in that living room just a little too quickly for me.

        That is a fairly minor gripe, mind you. As I said, there’s a lot to like in the film.

      • Nick Kush says:

        Ahh I see! There definitely was less of a struggle than I thought there would be — I can’t say that I was necessarily bothered by, though.

  4. Dan O. says:

    Definitely a scary film for sure. Nice review.

  5. Maybe you should consider yourself, a master of something Mr. Kush. A really nice job here capturing my annoyance and respect for a rather complicated film. Especially well-articulated with the constraints of not getting into spoiler discussion.

    • Nick Kush says:

      Ohh hush you’re far too kind!! Thanks so much for the kind words!

      Us is a bit frustrating, isn’t it? There’s so much great stuff in there that I just wish we could somehow fix all the bad so that it would be a singular masterpiece

  6. bonitamg says:

    Walked out of Us in a daze. It took me all weekend process it. My conclusion: genius.

    • Nick Kush says:

      I’m glad you liked it that much! There’s certainly a ton to love here. I imagine it’ll be on a ton of best of the year lists!

  7. Nick Kush says:

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