Us is writer-director Jordan Peele’s highly-anticipated follow-up to Get Out, a sharp filmic dissection of American society masquerading as a riveting genre piece. Two years later, Us proves that Peele is a true filmmaker, once again bringing us a tense, singular and stylish social thriller with a lot to say that captivates early on, despite some narrative shortcomings which reveal themselves down the back half of Peele’s sophomore effort.
Us begins with a expertly crafted suspense scene that well establishes the dark, unsettling mood and overarching mystery of the rest of the film. Soon after, we’re introduced to the Wilson family as they return to their Santa Cruz summer house for another season of beaching, boating and engaging in a passive-aggressive game of Keeping Up with the Jones’s with the Tyler family, who always seem to have the latest and greatest toys despite Gabe Wilson’s (Winston Duke) best efforts to get ahead.
Lupita Nyong’o gives an Oscar-caliber performance as Adelaide, who, along with her husband Gabe, parent two rambunctious preteens: Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and her little brother Jason (Evan Alex).
Adelaide soon begins suspecting that something isn’t quite right. That’s when Jason unexpectedly shows up in his parents bedroom and utters one of the most ominous and unsettling lines in recent horror: “There’s a family in our driveway.”
This kicks off the scene from the trailers with a doppelgänger Wilson family standing motionless in the dark, holding hands at the end of the driveway. Each member of the family looks identical to their foreboding counterpart, with the exception of their cultish red robes and a leather mask covering the face of Jason’s doppelgänger.
What follows is one of the most suspenseful home invasion sequences I’ve ever seen in which Jordan Peele’s daft direction is on full display, both stylistically and pace-wise.
Us is undeniably well cast and, more than anything, serves as an astounding exhibition for some wonderful performances from its central cast. Winston Duke is delightful as the corny “dad joke” dad who’s excited to get in as much time over summer break with his kids as possible, proving he has more in him than the macho M’Baku from Black Panther.
It is all made more impressive considering each actor is pulling double duty, both as the protagonists we’re rooting for throughout the film as well as the more zombie-like copycat versions of themselves, or “The Tethered” as they refer to themselves as. There isn’t a single weak link in this cast.
I would be remiss if I did not mention Us‘s haunting score by second-time film composer Michael Abels, who previously collaborated with Peele on Get Out. Abels effectively captures the dread of the more horrifying scenes in the film with a unique array of sounds and instruments. At the same time, Peele has shown he has one of the best instincts in the industry for knowing precisely when to both lay into and off of the musical accompaniment in order to let the performances take over.
Us began to lose me later on once the true scope of the narrative started making itself known. A lot of questions pop up that go unanswered and many of the logistics are either poorly explained or not at all. That coupled with a predictable, uninspired and unnecessary reveal at the very end left me walking out of the theater feeling deflated.
Us is ultimately about the journey and not the destination. It’s a thrilling, well-executed escape featuring magnificent performances with a lot of commentary to reflect on and unpack. And despite familiar plot beats throughout, the story of Us is wholly unique and one I think worth investing in.
⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2 (out of five)
Did you get a chance to check out Us? What did you think? We’re you blown away? Hit me up in the comments below and let me know your thoughts!