Jordan Peele continues his impressive streak as a filmmaker in his second film, “Us,” about a woman with a past trauma taking her family to the beach, only to have that trauma return in the form of doppelgangers. After the success of his film debut “Get Out,” Jordan Peele immediately established himself as a unique voice in horror. With “Us,” Peele continues to be that voice with his outstanding directing. Using the cinematography of Mike Gioulakis, Peele is able to use the movement and dynamic of the camera to do what the best horror films do, by drawing the audience into the horror instead of pushing them away.
The characters are incredibly well written as they are brought to life by stellar performances. Lupita Nyong’o absolutely steals the show as the protagonist, Adelaide Wilson, while also showing a truly terrifying performance as the doppelganger, Red. Her performance in “Us” is one of the best performances in 2019 and the best performance in horror since Toni Collette’s performance in “Hereditary.” Winston Duke brings a comedic performance as Adelaide’s husband Gabe, which adds complexity to his character and to the themes of the film, while at the same time, harkening back to Peele’s roots as a comedian.
Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex as Adelaide and Gabe’s children Zora and Jason are some of the best child performances in a long time. The performances of Elizabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker brought a certain complexity to the story that complimented the messages. How each actor had to play a double role in their character and the doppelganger, each having their own personality, is something to admire.
With so many amazing things that came out of “Us” from a technical and storytelling perspective, one could argue that the best thing to come out of it was the score. Michael Abels’ score is one of the most haunting scores to ever be produced in horror. The fact that this is his second score in film, the first being “Get Out,” is an astonishing thing. The use of the score along with Peele’s direction is the perfect blend of music and film. This score should be recommended to any fan of horror.
Another thing that makes “Us” a standout film is the film’s themes. Just like “Get Out,” the subtle messages and symbolism make “Us” not only an entertaining film but also an intellectual one as neither film ever comes off as preachy or pretentious. But they serve a purpose and allow the audience to be able to draw their own conclusions.
While “Get Out” was very specific with its symbolism, as it tackled race in the 21st century, “Us” is a little more all over the place, while still maintaining focus on the theme of class. The film also takes on duality, the effects of a traumatic past, the horror of building one’s success off another’s failure and how society views and defines the enemy and manages to balance all these themes beautifully.
If there is one thing that “Us” struggles with, it’s the balance between exposition and ambiguity. In horror, one must either have rules and let the horror build from that or keep things vague. “Us” tends to struggle with that towards the end of the film which was distracting.
Overall, “Us” is a fantastic sophomore film that encourages rewatches and conversation. Peele continues to be one of the best up and coming filmmakers working today that everyone should be looking out for.
Overall Grade: A