By The Nerdling
The second film from Academy Award-winning writer and director Jordan Peele cements his place as an interesting and exciting filmmaker. While Us is a well-done horror film, don’t go into the theater thinking you are getting another Get Out. There are layers of metaphors on society and identity throughout the film, but Us is much more of a pure suspense/horror movie.
It is incredibly difficult to talk about Us without getting into spoiler territory. I’m going to do my best here.
As a child, Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o) experienced a trauma which she has spent her life avoiding. As an adult, she returns to her family’s home in Santa Cruz with her husband Gabe (Winston Duke) and two children, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Jason Wilson). While at the beach, Adelaide starts to see strange coincidences leading her to think her past is catching up to her. Before she can convince her husband to pack up and leave, a family of doppelgangers arrives calling themselves the Tethered.
The entire cast of this film is exceptional. Peele gives everyone a moment of hilarity, terror, and uncanniness. Usually during the same scene. Nyong’o, Duke, Joseph, and Wilson have amazing chemistry as a family. We as the audience become fully invested in them quickly. Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Cali, and Noelle Sheldon, portraying friends of the Wilsons, shine in their small roles. Moss has one of the film’s best funny/creepy as hell moments. But in the end, Us belongs to Nyong’o.
She tackles the dual roles of Adelaide and Red (the Tethered version of Adelaide) with such beautiful nuance. As Adelaide, she swings from terrified trauma victim to ferocious momma bear and back again with ease. Her physicality for Red gives the character a sense of menace and sympathy depending on the scene. I want to say so much more about her performance, but it would go into spoiler territory. Nyong’o puts the film on her shoulders and carries it home.
It is easy to see Peele is developing his style as a filmmaker in Us. He holds each scene and allows the moment to play out to the fullest. There is no turning away from the fear or the sense of dread with the arrival of the Tethered. He knows how to ramp up the tension, but allows brief moments of comedy sprinkled throughout. What is genius is the comedic moments help to escalate the unease. And he manages this without resorting to cheap jump scares. There are plenty of setups for jolts lesser directors would have taken and I found myself becoming giddy every time something didn’t leap out at the screen.
It can be difficult to not watch Peele’s sophomore film thru the lens of Get Out. While both films do have some things in common, Peele is seemingly attempting his hand at a more genre specific film. There are a few metaphors which could point to a few different things. The underbelly of society, the darkness within ourselves, or the oddness of symbolic gestures. It is open to interpretation and ripe for debate, but can also be taken at face value in Peele is wanting to scare/unnerve you.
The only downside is you can’t think of the “how” when it comes to the plot. There are explanations given for “why”, but it is just best to take their word for it and not think about it any further.
Us showcases the Peele’s budding style and voice as a filmmaker. He pulled amazing performances from a well-cast group of actors and made an entertaining film. While it may not be as focused and on message as Get Out, Us shows Peele can make a movie worthy of multiple viewings.
The Nerdling was born in the majestic land known as Texas and currently resides there after several years of journeying through Middle Earth in a failed attempt to steal the one Ring from that annoying hobbit, serving the Galactic Empire for a time, and then a short stint as a crew member on the Serenity. Since moving back to her homeland, Nerdling flirted with a hero reputation. Saving children from the dangers of adoring domineering, sparkly vampires (champions with souls are the only vampires worth loving) and teaching normals the value of nerdom, all while rooting for her beloved Dallas Stars. Then came the Sokovia Accords and her short spell of saving others came to an end. With Darth Vader’s reputation rightfully returning to badass status, Nerdling is making her way back to the Empire. They do have cookies, you know. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram.