I’m trying to figure out how to formulate this review, as Us is an incredible film, but it’s a lot to unpack without getting into spoilers. I also want to avoid making the direct reference to Jordan Peele’s first film, Get Out, because a) I’ve already reviewed it and b) what’s the point of a movie review if you spend most of it talking about another film?
Us is batshit insane, and I absolutely love it for that. It is, first and foremost, a well-paced, well-acted horror film that is genuinely creepy, but also manages to get across a smartly comic tone that doesn’t feel shoehorned. Lupita Nyong’o’s performance is the standout here, but Winston Duke and the rest of the (mostly) young cast does their part to shoulder the load of this ambitious mindfuck of a movie that begs for a second viewing.
Us revolves the Wilson family, a middle-to-upper middle-class family set to spend the week at their vacation home in Santa Cruz. They’re a family of none-to-flashy wealth that can afford to live comfortably, even if the patriarch Gabe (Winston Duke) had to sacrifice style in order to afford a boat to keep up with his moderately better off friends. Santa Cruz happens to be the place of some trauma for Zora (Nyong’o), whom had gotten lost at the boardwalk 30 years prior and encountered what could only be described as her exact double. The experience caused her to spend years of therapy to work past it, but now being back in Santa Cruz has feelings of dread coming back to her.
After an attempt to make it work, Zora can’t deal with the stress of being in such close proximity of arguably the most defining moment of her childhood and wishes to leave. Unfortunately for the family, before they can, a family invades their home, a family that happens to look just like them.
This set up is, admittedly, a very basic version of a plot synopsis in order to avoid spoilers, and it appropriately feels like it’s a logline of an episode of The Twilight Zone, which Jordan Peele is set to adapt for CBS’s streaming app. As the story unfolds, the themes open up to the idea of internal reflection, our tendency to be our own worst enemies, as well as what it means to be who you are, both in what makes you you and how your decisions molds that perception of self.
This isn’t a philosophy class, though, so I’ll just go into what I thought of this as a movie. In a few words, I absolutely loved it. I don’t think this film is perfect if you just want to look at it as a plot that has to make sense at all times. I think Peele sacrifices telling a tighter story in favor of telling a more ambitious one, perhaps letting a couple of loose ends remain untied for the greater purpose of playing on the film’s overall themes and the plot as a whole. For this one, don’t sweat the details too much; don’t try and tie everything up in a bow. Allow yourself to be immersed in the film, allowing a suspension of disbelief just enough to allow the film to approach its story the way it is going to.
That all being said, Peele does a great job with this film, as he manages to create a truly terrifying, creepy horror film that is carried by one of the best performances by an actress in a while. Lupita Nyong’o is the star here, and she does a fantastic job of creating two completely unique characters that are really one in the same. The characterization of the two is so different that it never feels like we’re watching one person in two roles; they absolutely feel like two separate entities.
Additionally, the rest of the cast plays their roles perfectly, especially Winston Duke. Standing 6’5”, Duke has a looming onscreen presence, but it’s astonishing how his performance doesn’t feel like a brute strength sort of energy. He comes off as dorky, funny, and early on, he’s relegated, through certain circumstances, to a more supportive role to Nyong’o’s Zora, who acts as the man with the plan. It’s truly Zora’s story here, and the lead actress is phenomenal.
There is temptation to compare this to Get Out, but I’m actually going to compare this to last year’s Hereditary. Both films are divisive and I think that has to do with the confidence both seem to have in their third acts. They both seem to go completely off the rails after act two, and I think that can turn some people off that are looking for a resolve that plays it a bit safer. As Us starts to wrap up, and we start to learn more about this world that Peele has built, it does seem to bring up even more questions than we had at the beginning. That’s what makes this film a satisfying, albeit challenging watch. It definitely begs to be analyzed and watched multiple times and it’s one of the freshest horror films that has come out in some time. I’m fully on board with Jordan Peele’s horror career and can’t wait to see this one again. I might see this in theaters a second time, a move I haven’t done for a non-franchise film in quite some time.
RATING: 9 out of 10