What does this title mean to you? Do you see Us or US? Well, one half of a comedy duo turned satirical director Jordan Peele has stated there is no concrete meaning behind his sophomore feature. To save the confusion or feared mispronunciation, Us has dual connotations in fitting with how one would interpret the film itself. In the wake of his multi Oscar nominated global phenomenon Get Out, Peele returns with an even darker and more thought provoking movie that reminds us that we are our own worst enemy.
A family take a trip to Santa Cruz for a relaxing summer vacation. However, their tranquility is soon disrupted when dopplegängers arrive at the end of their driveway. This mind boggling, ambiguous comedy-horror is overflowing with ambition. I think Get Out is a good film but not a great film, I respect the innovative creative choices Peele makes as well as the power social commentary that is carefully woven into the story. However I found both the horror and comedy elements lacking and the sub plot with Chris' best bud Rod jarring and fairly avoidable.
Us however is a taxing, frustrating but extraordinary work - one that I don't doubt will be studied in years to come. In the DNA of Peele's sinister satire he explores our duality. There are visual motifs peppered throughout the entire journey, repeated symbols of pairs - whether it's the newscast that reports the game score reading 11:11 or the shadows cast by the Wilson family as they stroll across the beach. Peele delicately sorts images into the film, reflecting the dopplegängers in smaller detail. Scissors are a power convention of the horror genre - they don't just impose this great sense of threat because they're a sharp object, their symmetry mirrors the genuine threat which is each side of us.
Chiefly, Peele dedicates the first half of this nightmare to the family. Like all the best horror films, Us establishes real character dynamics, admirable people who we invest in long before things literally go to hell. Discussing the lyrics to Luniz' I Got 5 On It and bickering around the kitchen table - Peele shows us their close-knit relationship. Winston Duke is terrific as Gabe - the goofy dad who dabs and attempts to win over the rest of the family with his conked out "speed" boat. Shahadi Wrigth Joseph is brilliant as the archetypal disapproving teenage girl, in addition to Jason played by Evan Alex who brings great physicality to his performance. In one of her first leading roles Lupita Nyong'o is sensational as the anxious though resourceful Adelaide, capturing a mother's instinct with refections of long hidden childhood trauma. Us is flawed but the first act is flawless.
I'm personally not a fan of comedy-horror, I find it either undercuts the tension or it can't find the right balance between scares and gags. Although it took me a while to adjust to it - Peele is trying to do A LOT here. Us is a better showcase for the visionary genre blending and tinkering with extremely dark subject matter whilst injecting zany dead-pan humour into it. In one pre-climatic scene the family argue over who has the highest kill count and should therefore drive the getaway car - this bold tone mixing and self-awareness is a key aspect of Peele's auteurism, along with his politically and socially thought provoking cinematography.
There is so much to decipher in Peele's Rorschach test. Us plays as a wicked critic on Trumps' America, pointing the blame at ourselves, suggesting we are the reason the nation is so divided. It's also a film about inequality and the marginalised groups of society, but unlike Get Out, not strictly about racism. When we reach the end you may not gain much gratification from this satirical misadventure, but more than anything Us is your own interpretation. The fact that Peele had the balls to put out something this ambitious with no clear meaning is not only commendable, it's absolutely awe-inspiring.
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Hi I’m James - a huge welcome to my film blog! I started this site just after my 14th birthday and have been bringing you my own take on the hottest box office arrivals and many art house triumphs ever since.