By Bradley Lane
Jordan Peele has had one of the most successful career transitions of all time in the entertainment industry. He began work in TV and film with his successful comedy television show Key & Peele. After creating a large fanbase and establishing himself as one of the most popular comedians working, he did a full stop 180 and wrote, produced and directed the smash hit horror thriller Get Out. Actors transitioning into a directorial role is difficult enough, with a genre switch so drastic all eyes were on Peele to see if he could deliver. Not only was Get Out a critical darling culminating in a best original screenplay win at the Oscars for Peele, but it also became the highest grossing film for Blumhouse Productions, raking in $176 million at the box office. Peele made Get Out with a small budget and was in constant fear that it might not ever see a release, while Us is a confident and powerful feature with just as much to say about duality, past trauma and family.
Us follows the summer vacation of the Wilson family as they travel to Santa Cruz, Calif. All seems to be going well until another mysterious family shows up in their driveway on their first night back. They stand menacingly as the Wilsons try and make sense of their presence. Ultimately the mysterious family force their way into the Wilson’s summer home and sit down with them, face to face. Suddenly the Wilsons are confronted by their attackers, who look exactly as they do. Their faces stare back at them dressed in red jumpsuits, carrying golden scissors with stated intent to kill them.
Us is littered with smart, insightful and occasionally eye-opening symbolism and messaging, however, Peele never sacrifices entertainment just to give his audience a lecture. Intense fights for survival and brilliant use of popular music make for dramatic and immensely satisfying sequences. Peele’s eye for what audiences respond to is keen and never leans too far into fan service to distract from his vision. It is a tightrope he walks with ease and makes Us endlessly rewatchable.
Adding to the replay value of Us is the immaculate amount of detail Peele layers into each scene. Careful set decoration, numerical significance and costuming leave so much for the audience to chew on that it would be a disservice to the film to try and say you have everything figured out upon first viewing. That being stated, I did not care for a specific story reveal toward the end of the film that I felt was particularly unnecessary.
I could go on for hours about Peele’s mastery, but a lot of other people helped realize this film, the most impressive being Lupita Nyong’o. Her performance as both Adelaide Wilson and her doppelganger Red are unique and full of character depth. Additionally, the musical score written by Michael Abels is memorable and aids the narrative tonally.
Us is a triumph of the horror genre and deserves to be watched and studied carefully and can be viewed now on HBO Max. – 4/5 stars