Could expectations be any higher for writer/director Jordan Peele’s follow-up to his social satire/horror/thriller, ‘Get Out’? His new film ‘Us’ is also firmly planted in the genre, and similarly contains overarching allegories for the country we live in, notably income disparity (it’s by design that the title has a ‘U’ and an ‘S’). It’s very well directed and acted but does leave the viewer in a head-scratching space, wondering if it adequately reconciles its entertainment factor (which is considerable) with its symbolism.
Under Peele’s guidance, every shot and item in frame has relevance. The performances he coaxes out of his very talented cast, including both adults and children, are deliberate and assured. A truly riveting Lupita Nyong’o (Adelaide) and a genuinely hilarious Winston Duke (Gabe) play the main characters, parents of Shahadi Wright Joseph (Zora) and Evan Alex (Jason). They make up a convincing family unit on vacation, having typical internal squabbles and displaying petty jealousies concerning their friends’ home and possessions (minimal but effective turns by Elizabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker). Linked to a childhood trauma introduced with 80s nods in the opening sequence of the film, ‘Us’ really gets going, and doesn’t let up, once a family of doppelgangers shows up in the driveway of the Wilson family summer home.
‘Us’ is surprisingly as funny as it is creepy and thrilling once the menace of the counterparts is introduced. The scenes that follow are all set up beautifully by their predecessors (the Matchbox truck wedged in the door, the glitchy boat, the magic trick, etc.). It’s a testament to Peele’s prowess and his talented cast’s ability to play mirror image versions of themselves that the viewer recalls all these beats and cares about the characters.
It’s difficult to discuss more of the film without delving into spoiler territory. For the most part, ‘Us’ is definitely worth the experience of watching a burgeoning master fully supported by a cast and crew along for the ride. All throughout the film, the screenplay and imagery stimulate audience thoughts of greater metaphor and constant wonder as to the why of what is being displayed on screen. The only problem is that because the movie is crafted so well, it’s all the more confounding that no matter how relevant these new movie monsters ‘The Tethered’ are for these particularly divided times (financially, politically), the difficulty of suspending disbelief around the logistics of their existence gets in the way of the overall symbols they represent . . .
Written & Directed By: Jordan Peele
Running Time: 116 min
* * * (out of four stars) -or- B