According to my production notes, before he had even finished making “Get Out,” his Oscar-winning 2017 blockbuster that dives deep into issues of race and privilege in America, writer/director/producer Jordan Peele was already developing “Us.” That said, Peele’s become one of my favorite directors—and he just “started.”. Never in my wildest dreams watching him on Comedy Central’s “Key & Peele” or “Keanu” (starring alongside Keegan-Michael Key) did I think this dude would take and tackle the film industry by the horns. Let’s be honest, what’s there to say about “Get Out” that hasn’t been said already? Embraced by the world, it’s a strong statement. Eloquently done, symbolically the tone of “Get Out” is harsh and scary and straight-forward, but gorgeous. Stepping up to the plate as a sophomore filmmaker, Peele once again swings for the fences with a freaky horror that exposes something very different and disturbing.
In order to get away from their busy lives, the Wilson family (Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Evan Alex and Shahadt Wright Joseph) take a vacation to Santa Cruz, California with the plan of spending some quality time together, along with their friends, the Tyler family (Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Cali and Noelle Sheldon). On a day at the beach, their young son Jason (Alex) almost wanders off, causing his mother Adelaide (Nyong’o) to become protective of her family (riding on dwellings of her own traumatic past). That night, four mysterious people break into the home where they’re staying in (coincidentally Adelaide’s childhood home). The family is shocked to find out that the intruders look like and sound like them, only with grotesque appearances.
For starters, much love, respect and kudos to the cast, especially Lupita! This woman’s career choices have really made her a charming mark to watch. Elevating her to new heights with “Us,” playing both roles—as everyone else does very nicely—demands a lot from Lupita, the film’s protagonist. Seesawing between Adelaide and Red (leader of the mysterious doppelgangers known as The Tethered), both roles needed to be uniquely displayed while also riding as a reflection of each other. Making it look simple and subtle, Lupita really owns it. Watching her shift gears is bizarrely entertaining, making the movie that much more appealing.
Although not as tightly presented as “Get Out,” “Us” is incredibly ambitious. It’s not a step down, but a step (in general). To where? That’s an interpretation audiences will have to define on their own. “Us” doesn’t waste any time generating a mood. Score and soundtrack alike serve as a character within the movie itself as it carries scenes that start to make your mind swirl. “There’s a family in our driveway,” says Jason. Once that line is over, the rest is history. It’s an extremely edgy piece. What starts off as a home invasion thriller, steers off into a chaotic journey of uncertainty. Although bold and bloody, Peele’s inventive approach is just as beautiful as “Get Out’s.”
“Us” is a trippy flick that needs more than one viewing. As I type this, it’s still twirling in my mind, and only a matter of time before someone starts to dissect it scene-by-scene. There are so many layers to digest. It’s more than just a psychological thriller. It’s a twisted yet clever observation on humanity and the darkness that lies within us. The imperfections of humanity denying faults, guilt, demons, taking things and people for granted, and class warfare among all races within themselves. As a whole, “Us” is a tangled web of humanistic complexities. The movie will confuse you, but also make you think deeply. It’s going to be interesting to see how the “Peele Appeal” resonates with us (pardon the pun) in the coming weeks. Before embarking on this journey, I will say do not go into this piece expecting “Get Out.” If that’s what you intend to do, you’ll be wasting your time. “Us” is its own gem of social commentary. It’s own monster. You’ve been warned!
Grade: A / Genre: Horror, Psychological Thriller / Rated; R / Run Time: 116 Min.
Starring: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Evan Alex, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Cali Sheldon, Noelle Sheldon
Directed by: Jordan Peele