‘Us’: An entertaining, fun piece of work

The film belongs completely to Lupita Nyong’o, who puts in a power packed performance.

In 2017, comedian-writer-actor-director Jordan Peele made waves all around the world with his debut directorial venture Get Out, a horror film centered around race relations. Although the ultimate payoff to the plot was highly illogical, the film was crafted brilliantly and dared to be a horror movie with a deeper social meaning. Therefore, when Peele’s next directorial horror venture US was announced, the bar was set quite high.

Garnering rave reviews at the recent SXSW Film Festival, expectations continued to grow till its release this weekend. The main question on everyone’s mind is – does it live up to the excellence of Get Out? Is it scarier? Let’s find out (I promise I will not give spoilers)…

Us tells the story of a family of four who decide to take a vacation to Santa Cruz beach. While staying at the beach, they encounter a twisted family who terrorizes them with an interesting attribute – they are warped duplicates of them. Why do these duplicates exist? Who are they and why are they seeking to harm this family? To find the answers, watch Us.

The film belongs completely to Lupita Nyong’o. She puts in a power packed performance as the troubled mother and the creepy doppelganger with aplomb. It is always a challenge to play a double role in a movie in a manner that distinguishes one character from the other, but she changes her body language, look and even her voice, to achieve the differences in the character.

Winston Duke is hilarious as the father/husband, while the kids do a fabulous job in their roles as well, without a false note. None of these cast members bring the same nuanced changes to their doppelgangers as Lupita, but still do a good job with their dual performances.

I also want to give a special shout out to Elizabeth Moss as Kitty, Lupita’s friend in the movie. Her role is brief, but she brings such a naturalness to it, it is incredible. In every scene that she is in, you can visualize at least one person in your lifetime that you have met that is like her character. There is a throwaway scene where she is arguing with her husband, and it is conveyed so naturally. An amazing actress for sure, kind of wasted in a small role!

The script by Jordan Peele is novel, something never examined before in the horror genre. He keeps the proceedings interesting, ratcheting up the curiosity behind the mystery more and more as the film progresses, and you can’t quite predict in which direction the film is headed. There are definitely some socio-political undertones in the movie, but one has to decipher for his/herself what the true message is.

Peele’s direction is also top notch. What I truly admired is how the film focuses purely on the story and does not try to make its core issues thrown in your face. It portrays the life of its characters as is, which is exactly the type of filmmaking needed today. The tone of the film is more fun and creepy than scary. There are only a few truly terrifying moments, such as a brilliant one at Elizabeth Moss’ house or the opening of the film, neither of which I will reveal here. I also applaud that although the movie is violent, there are no guts and gross visuals. Everything is by suggestion.

If I have one criticism, it is not really a big one, but the eventual explanation of the situation is highly illogical, which for me, took away a little bit from the movie. Nevertheless, it is not one that audiences would expect, so is still enjoyable to absorb within the context of the zaniness of the film.

Peele has proved once again that he is a highly creative filmmaker whose subjects both terrify and enlighten. He is more than a comedian – and is arguably one of the smartest filmmakers out there today. However, after this film, he should take a pause and make a non-horror film next strategically. It would be great to see his take on a superhero film or a serious drama, or even a high concept comedy!

Us is definitely worth a one-time watch, but given its ending, may merit at least one more. I give it a 4/5 for its unique story, great direction, and stellar performances.


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