Jordan Peele’s new film “Us” is a genre defying film that is sure to become a cult classic among fans of horror, dark comedy, or suspense.
“Us” is Peele’s second movie following the monumental success of his first film, “Get Out.” The film stars Winston Duke and Lupita Nyong’o as parents to young actors Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex.
Over the course of the film the family is terrorized by doppelgängers from their mother’s past who reveal dark secrets about their family and the world they thought they knew.
Peele’s second film is an advancement of the craft he presented in “Get Out” to an astounding degree.
“Us” is a visually complex film with dense symbolism that is also immediately accessible and enjoyable.
The heart of “Us” lies in that balance between accessibility and high art and in that balance an almost avant-garde style emerges.
“Us” is funny, engaging, and entertaining in a way that densely packed artistic films rarely are.
Every detail of “Us” is painstakingly tracked and beautifully well presented from the cinematography, to the score, writing, and acting, due in no small part to the growth of Peele’s craft.
“Us” is absolutely packed with powerhouse performances from wall-to-wall even tertiary supporting cast members are excellent.
Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph, and Evan Alex all turned in incredible performances as the main family and the doppelgängers.
Winston Duke’s Gabe Wilson provides a lot of the films humor and levity but when he’s not turning in comedic lines, he’s delivering a carefully measured and grounded performance.
Evan Alex and Shahadi Wright Joseph are both phenomenal child actors whose double portrayals deserve twice the praise and earn twice the merit as their peers.
Both Alex and Joseph’s performances are surprisingly measured given their experience and many of their moments help release built up tension in the film.
Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker provide the film with a ‘keep up with the Jones’ atmosphere while also further illustrating the disparity between those who have and those who have not.
Tim Heidecker steps far outside of his comfort zone in this film and delivers alongside Moss’ convincing and wine-addled speech.
However, Lupita Nyong’o’s performance is head and shoulders above the competition and maybe be the best acting we’ve ever seen from a female lead in a horror movie.
Lupita Nyong’o’s character is the most vocal and active in her family and the most powerful as a doppelgänger.
Her jagged movements and raspy, aggressive voice modulation provide a clear distinction between the two characters throughout the film.
A standout aspect of this film is its score which is composed from a slowed down and pitch shifted version of “I got 5 on it”.
The result of the score is a melodic tone that is constantly reminiscent of the dynamics between the two families.
The score is emblematic of the themes of the privileged and the other that extends throughout the film.
The doppelgängers lived a jagged, harsh, and dark life; while the privileged family lived a life of fun in the sun.
The score perfectly illustrates this concept in a masterful fashion but flipping and submerging the song “I got 5 on it”, which was previously used to bond within the family, in a torrential darkness.
“Us” has multiple themes that resonate consistently and evenly across the film and the film itself is ripe for interpretation on multiple levels.
The most obvious themes presented in the film are that of the privileged vs. the unprivileged and the repression of our true selves, the version we keep hidden.
The theme of the privileged vs. the unprivileged or as us vs. the other is the most prevalent in the film.
By calling back to the failed Hands Across America campaign the film asks us to consider the ways with interact with our homeless population.
In a society where homelessness is treated as a cause to be exiled, the people we forget are left with nothing while we reap the rewards of their failure.
The divide, caused by the haves and the have-nots, is front and center in the film. A less obvious theme however is the artistic representation of hidden identities.
This theme best exhibits itself in the doppelgängers and their contrasting identities was well as within the conclusion of the film.
Evan Alex’s character, Jason Wilson and his doppelgänger Pluto, illustrate this concept in a literal fashion.
Wilson finds a children’s magic lighter while playing in the closet of his families vacation home and reminisces about his lost love of magic tricks.
As the film progresses his mother and fathers position on the lighter becomes clear and it’s obvious, he was forced to leave magic because of his parents annoyance.
Later in the film, when Wilson meets Pluto, his doppelgänger, Wilson is confronted with the mirror reflection of his actions.
Pluto is horribly burned and wears a mask to hide his disfigurement. In addition, he always carries a lit match with him to illustrate his love of fire.
“Us” asks viewers to question the perceived identities of the people who are forced to be other and the people who benefit from that success.
Like “Get Out”, the film is littered with Easter eggs, for the discerning movie goer or genre fan, that aren’t distracting to the central plot but do provide insight.
For instance, towards the beginning of the film a VHS tape copy of the film “C.H.U.D.” can be seen resting beside a television.
“Us” is a densely packed and highly rewarding film that rewards multiple viewings.
Horror fans and thriller fans will be delighted by this film and the story is accessible for multiple age ranges.