If Jordan Peele arrived two years ago as a filmmaker with the release of his directorial debut “Get Out,” his follow-up film, “Us,” establishes the Academy Award winner as one of the best in the business.
Peele once again takes the horror genre and spins it in intriguing ways to create an experience that feels like some wonderful mix of Alfred Hitchcock and David Lynch.
The less you know going into “Us” the better, as part of the fun is going on this roller coaster ride where you have no idea where it is truly going.
The basic premise is simple enough with very few spoilers – Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) and Gabe (Winston Duke) arrive at Adelaide’s childhood home with their two children Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex) for a relaxing getaway. As the rest of the family settles in, Adelaide gets an unsettling feeling as memories of a childhood trauma start to surface.
Her concerns come to fruition when a mysterious family appears in the driveway – doppelgängers who are intent on terrorizing Adelaide, Gabe, Zora and Jason.
From there, “Us” goes in directions that allow Peele to explore the genre in ways few filmmakers dare to journey. Like “Get Out,” Peele’s screenplay is full of layers that almost require multiple viewings to allow the audience to appreciate how meticulous every plot detail truly is. There is no wasted space or motion in “Us,” with everything from an opening title card to the use of music (this may be the first film to ever segue from the Beach Boys to NWA seamlessly) crafted with a purpose.
“Us” runs the gamut of emotions – a film that is smart, funny, terrifying and absolutely memorable. It embraces the communal experience of a packed theater quite well (the screening I attended was a crowd that was so into the action on the screen you couldn’t help but get sucked in emotionally as well).
It helps that the cast is up to pulling off the film’s complexities with dual performances, particularly Nyong’o – who is asked to play both the heroine and the villain. She pulls it off flawlessly, showing a side that we haven’t seen before from the Academy Award-winning actress.
Duke is a scene-stealer with his performance injecting much-needed humor to lighten the tension Peele creates as the stakes grow higher and higher. Both child actors are impressive as well, as is Elisabeth Moss in a small role as a family friend.
“Us” does have a few minor flaws compared to “Get Out.” “Us” doesn’t have the same social commentary subtext that took the previous film to another level, and the final act does start to sputter, only to be saved by a final reveal that brings it all together quite well.
Still, there is a lot to appreciate about “Us” and about Peele, who proves that “Get Out” was no fluke. Peele has quickly established himself as one of the best filmmakers working today.
I can’t wait to see what he does next.