Now here’s a filmmaker who’s thinking out of the box, doing things that nobody else is doing, experimenting with ideas that no one else is even imagining, and thus changing the genre landscape with one film at a time. After dazzling viewers & critics alike with his immaculately crafted directorial debut that exceeded all expectations, Jordan Peele returns with another cleverly layered & deftly calculated horror-thriller that’s original, ambitious & audacious. A work of ingenuity sprinkled with elements of social satire, Us establishes Peele amongst the brightest talents in the contemporary pool of Hollywood filmmaking scene.
The story follows the Wilson family who arrive at their summer house in Santa Cruz to enjoy their vacation, and decide to head out to the beach to spend some time with their friends. The mother, Adelaide, had a traumatic experience at the same beach when she was younger and is apprehensive about the trip but ultimately relents. Further shaken by a series of strong co-incidences that make her even more paranoid, her horrors are realised later that night when they encounter another family of four in their driveway who then break into the Wilson’s home, corner them, and reveal themselves to be their doppelgängers.
Written & directed by Jordan Peele, his sophomore directorial effort finds him tackling with even more brazen notions, addressing American past, American class & American privilege. There isn’t a single moment in the final print that feels out of place and every piece of the puzzle fits in retrospect. However, there are too many ideas that he wanted to experiment with here and is unable to balance & integrate all of them into a cohesive narrative structure, unlike his previous venture. It is still an impressive outing from the immeasurably talented filmmaker who is operating on an entirely different level when compared to his contemporaries.
Peele’s writing also deserves a mention, for it aptly blends dark humour with thrills into a delicious film that has a hold of our attention from beginning to end. Every segment is relevant to the plot, every character choice plays its part in the final outcome, and every moment is accounted for. Also, it is remarkable how it everything just fits once you start connecting the dots. Cinematography employs inventive camera angles, brilliant lighting & controlled manoeuvring to instill a foreboding aura into the imagery. Editing unravels the terror at a steady pace, and trims out all it can do without although the final act does feel slightly drawn out. And Michael Abels’ soundtrack is immaculate.
Coming to the acting department, Us features an interesting ensemble in Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Even Alex, Elisabeth Moss & Tim Heidecker, with Nyong’o stealing the show with an outstanding showcase in her dual role. She is brilliant as Adelaide & downright maniacal as her doppelgänger. Add to that, her screen presence has an infectious quality to it. Duke renders his character’s fear & confusion with finesse and contributes most to the film’s comedic aspects. The kids play their roles responsibly as well, not to mention that their tethered characters are way more sinister. Heidecker & Moss also chip in with fine supporting inputs, thus leaving nothing to complain about.
On an overall scale, Us is equal parts amusing, terrifying & insightful, and is by all means a commendable sophomore feature from Jordan Peele. It is unlike what most filmmakers in the arena are offering and while not as rewarding as Get Out, it is still noteworthy for its originality & ambition. Undeniably amongst the better films of the year if not the best, Us has the gradually escalating sense of danger and an atmosphere that reeks of tension, but the balance Peele retains between moments of full-fledged horror & flat-out comedy is where his strength lies as a storyteller. Even in his formative years as a filmmaker, he exhibits an understanding of the genre that’s right up there with the masters of the craft. As thoughtful as it is entertaining, Us is another terrific addition to Jordan Peele’s oeuvre.