After watching this movie, you will be beside yourself!
Jordan Peele, best known for his comedic team-up with Keegan Michael-Key, took the cinematic world by storm with his semi-comedic thriller, Get Out. The film was universally acclaimed and managed to snag a handful of Oscar nominations, with Peele winning for best original screenplay. Looking back, it is amazing how well the film still holds up after two years, and personally, it gets better each time I watch it. One question that was most boiling through many people’s minds was whether or not Peele would be able to strike lightning twice with his follow-up, Us.
The film stars Lupita Nyong’o as Adelaide, a woman who is slowly recovering from a traumatic incident she suffered when she was a child. Over 30 years later, she and her husband, Gabe, take their children, Zora and Jason, to their beach house in California. There, they hope to have a nice, relaxing vacation with their friends, the Tylers. One night, not long after arriving, the family spots a group of strangers standing on their front yard. This is not The Strangers, however, as this group of people turns out to be a mirror image of Adelaide and her family.
It is difficult to talk further about Us without spoiling some major plot twists. This is true of many films in theory, but for this one especially, since a twist is revealed about every 20 or 30 minutes. It would be wrong to do so too, because it would be robbing audiences the experience that this masterfully crafted thriller provides.
Jordan Peele seems to truly understand suspenseful filmmaking, and his style is the equivalent of a cinematic scavenger hunt. He provides just enough clues to satisfy the audience while letting the story and characters carefully reveal more details along the way. For example, the first scene of the film, which takes place in 1986, features a young Adelaide watching a certain television commercial. This is followed by the opening credits, which are set in a laboratory full of caged rabbits, creating even more questions, only for the film’s plot to start moving. And when it finally gets to the conclusion, the audience members’ jaws will have already dropped to the floor with the final revelation. They’ll then have to put their jaws back in its place for the inevitable conversation to follow afterwards, because there will be plenty to talk about!
Aside from building suspense, Peele also truly knows how to create likable and relatable characters. Something I noticed throughout the first half is how well the characters are set up. Adelaide and her family are given enough quirks to make them stand out amongst each other, Gabe especially, but they still behave like a realistic family, as do their friends, the Tyler family. The cast even does exceptional playing their characters’ Doppelgangers, especially Nyong’o. Both versions of Adelaide are so distinct in the way they move and talk, that you almost forget that Nyong’o is playing both of them in the same scene (expertly framed by Peele and cinematographer Mike Gioulakis).
Part of the fun of watching a horror film is how the audience ends up participating in figuring out the mystery, and it is nice to see that Peele respects that. Audience members will notice some visual callbacks to Get Out (driving through the woods, close-ups of faces filled with tears, etc.), but Peele makes the film able to stand out on its own terms with its own visual references that can interpreted many different ways. Knowing how many visual references Peele had sneakily place in Get Out (there is an Buzzfeed article that lists at least 20 of them!), I spent most of the Us searching for them, and regardless how many I found, I could personally say that I enjoyed the search.
So yes, Peele has officially struck lightning twice! Us is a fascinating piece of horror filmmaking, and features some incredible atmosphere, a chilling soundtrack, and a shocking story that continuously builds over the film’s runtime. Knowing how well Peele has done with both this and Get Out, all I can say is that I am super-psyched for his upcoming reboot of The Twilight Zone, as well as any projects he has in store for audiences everywhere!