The genre of horror is responsible for the most innovative filmmaking happening in the world of cinema right now and leading the way is Jordan Peele. 2017’s Get Out was a cultural phenomenon and just two years later rightfully ranks among the best films of the decade. Get Out was the rare horror movie that manages to tackle serious and weighty topics while still remaining terrifying. It’s horror that has both a heart and a conscience. Something thats rarely been done well before, especially when tackling themes as real and divisive as Get Out does. At the very least it was certainly not exactly what the world was expecting when one half of the beloved comedy duo Key and Peele decided to chart a new path outside the realm of sketch comedy.
Us is Peele’s followup to Get Out, a supremely original film in a cinema landscape oversaturated with adaptions, reboots, and remakes. While not without it’s flaws, Us is punctuated by terrific performances and is a fantastic and worthy follow up to Get Out that cements Peele’s status as one of the best filmmakers in the world.
The less you know about Us going into it the better. In an era where trailers seemingly spoil every detail of a movie, the marketing team for Us deserves a lot of credit for keeping the film’s secrets close to the vest. There is an overarching and overt social commentary to Us, but unlike Get Out this time it’s far more broad. The premise of Us is simple enough, a family of four go on vacation and after a home invasion realize that they are being hunted by their doppelgängers. The cast of the film all portray themselves in addition to their doppelgänger versions. Something that is no easy task and that they all knock out of the park.
There isn’t a ton in common with his debut, but one thing I can say is that similar Get Out, I am not sure any other director could have made Us. Peele has an eye and creative mind that are unique and unparalleled. His concepts are lofty, but his execution is pretty seamless. Us continues this blending horror and his signature comedy pretty well. In fact, Us is even a lot funnier than Get Out, something that will likely work both for and against it with audience members. Personally, I thought it added some levity to the script while never going too far into self parody or turn into a straight up horror comedy.
Outside of the Peele’s direction, the cast is absolutely superb. The real star of the film is Lupita Nyong’o, who deserves her second Oscar immediately for playing the lead role. It’s only March so it’s pretty early in the year to start throwing out potential picks for this year’s Academy Awards, but Nyong’o is that good in this movie, it’s hard to believe that this is her first starring role. Peele’s dialogue is great, but it’s Nyong’o in particular who really brings the film to life. She has a tough job playing both Adelaide and her doppelgänger Red, two very different roles asking her to do very different things, but she absolutely knocks it out of the park. That’s not to say the rest of the cast doesn’t deliver either, because they do. They all have similarly tough lifts of playing both the protagonists and the antagonists of the film, it’s challenging stuff, but it never feels too big for them. Winston Duke shines as Gabe, the hysterical and often clueless father as well as the the doppelgänger Abraham who is brooding and physically imposing. Evan Alex and Shahadi Wright Joseph also are terrific Adelaide and Gabe’s two children Jason and Zora. In a world where more and more child actors are thriving in Hollywood, these are the two of the best and definitely people to keep an eye on (Wright Joseph will already be co-starring in the live action remake of The Lion King due out later this year as Young Nala).
The score is another area where Us truly excels. Composer Michael Abels also worked with Peele on Get Out and returns again to create a bone-chilling soundscape. Ables really outdoes himself here and truly evokes a mood, reaction, and feeling thats unlike anything we’ve heard in film for a long time. This is the closest that horror has had to a truly iconic score since John Carpenter’s score for Halloween.
For two thirds of the film, I genuinely thought it was some of the best film making I’ve seen in a very long time. The build up and tension are executed masterfully with the doppelgängers terrifying and the stakes feeling very real. The balance of humor and horror was handled perfectly, and the film is genuinely terrifying. The third act is where things start to get dicey and the movie buckles a little bit under some of it’s own ambition once the script decides that it needs explain itself, something I am not sure it needed to do, at least in the way they did. The ending and final twist also leaves some frustrations. Us somehow finds a way of ending simultaneously anti-climactic and definitively, it wants to have it’s cake and eat it too, something that doesn’t quite make sense. It’s a testament to Us though that depite the flaws in the final 40 minute, the film is still enjoyable and fantastic. Us will leave audiences thinking long after the credits stop rolling. Even if it falters, Peele undeniably achieved what he sought out to make.
Despite it’s flaws, Us is a singularly unique and original film. The performances are out of this world, Peele’s direction is as tight as ever, and the story features a lofty, but terrific concept. Even if it trips itself up a little bit during the third act I can safely say that I have never seen a film quite like it before, and while I am sure many will try, I don’t think I will again. At the end of the day I am not sure it’s possible to offer higher praise for a film than that.
4 out of 5 stars