To be honest, I wasn’t sure what I thought once the credits started rolling on Jordan (NOICE) Peele’s latest film “Us“. My wife and I were speechless. There was just so much to process and discuss. Upon your first viewing, you’re more than likely going to have a ton of questions as well. Usually, I can give a verdict on whether or not I liked a film pretty much the minute it ends. It’s essentially a thumbs up or down from me. The difference with Us is that it grows on you long after it’s over. You start to think about it and process it and appreciate it more and more until it buries itself deep in your conscious.
Us introduces… us to the Wilson’s, who consists of mother Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o), father Gabe (Winston Duke) and their son Jason (Evan Alex) and daughter Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph). The Wilson’s are just your typical family who can joke around with each other. They’re extremely likable and easy to relate to. It isn’t long though before their family getaway is interrupted and takes a dark turn when they’re confronted by their dopplegangers or “Tethered“, as the film refers to them. These more feral versions of themselves want to break away from their other half, which usually ends with buckets of blood spilled on nice white carpets. You grow to love the Wilson’s over the course of the film and really care about what happens to them. You’re really rooting for them to get out of this situation alive as it continues to escalate.
What I found great about Us is that it begins as a home invasion movie and quickly changes gears into something much bigger than I anticipated. Each set piece ratchets up the intensity, continuing to keep you on the edge of your seat even after the violence spills out onto the streets or deep in the tunnels below the city. The story has many twists and turns that are well done but the film almost collapses on itself when the story reaches its climax, simply because it tries to explain something that could have been left ambiguous. Sometimes things are just better left a mystery. Being confronted by someone that looks just like you and wants to murder you is enough. No need for an explanation.
The actors are all fantastic, considering they have to play two completely different versions of themselves. It’s a testament to their acting skills, especially the children. Jason is a cute and lovable kid who likes to wear a mask but his double wears a mask and crawls around on all fours like an animal and purrs when he is pet. He also has a thing for fire. Us definitely pushes these actors to find their dark side. While all of the “Tethered” versions of themselves communicate with grunts and screams, Adelaide’s is able to speak in this strained, whisper of a voice. It’s unnerving and Lupito does a great job of juggling these two very different characters. Elisabeth Moss is also a stand out as the friend next door and her Tethered is downright creepy when she makes her arrival.
The only thing I found jarring about Us was the sense of humor that plays out during the movie. Gabe has some great moments and provides most of the laughs, but sometimes they feel out of place. What these characters are going through is nothing short of life changing and traumatic, yet they have the time to argue about who should be driving the car based on how many kills each of them have. Sure, it’s funny and lends a bit of levity to the carnage that just took place beforehand, but it really takes you out of the moment when you should be absolutely terrified and fearing for these characters lives.
Despite some minor grievances I had, Jordan Peele continues to make waves in the horror genre with his terrifying and original stories. He has mentioned he would love to make a movie based on the beloved animated kids show Gargoyles, which I’m all for, but I’m excited to see what kind of messed up world he takes us to next. Us is weird, funny, violent, and intense. It’s great. – NVJ