Jordan Peele’s directorial follow-up to his 2017 smash “Get Out” confuses me in all the good ways. As I’m writing this, I’m still scratching my head and reading differing theories about what the film is exactly about or why certain things unfold the way they do.
To put the film in a layman’s summary, it is about a family of four (played by Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright and Evan Alex) who take a vacation to their beach house in Santa Cruz, California. Whilst there, coincidences begin to occur and, before they know it, they’re being hunted by a family of doppelgangers.
Peele has proven himself—with only two films to his directorial portfolio—to be an anomaly when it comes to storytelling. He possesses an idiosyncratic imagination that treads the line between social commentary and the stuff of nightmares. Given how his career is rooted in comedy, it’s downright flabbergasting that he’s so adept at building tension and keeping an audience on the edge of their seat even after the credits have started rolling.
Is he the new Alfred Hitchcock? No, he’s something else—he’s himself.
Like with “Get Out,” the film is difficult to categorize because there are so many elements floating about it. It’s thrilling, bloody, funny and often times thought-provoking.
The characters as well are fully-fledged out, enhanced by the many moments where a character or two punctuates the horror with a joke. This gives the audience a glimpse into their psychology, their fears and desires. On the opposite end of that spectrum, the characters convincingly demonstrate their terror and resolve to live.
If I had to pinpoint my primary concern with the film—and contradict myself ever so slightly—it’s the humor. Yes, real people have the habit of cracking a funny when the going is getting tough. However, I have yet to encounter a film where this is replicated consistently well. While the tension is still very much intact, these types of exchanges seem to suggest that the filmmaker is worried they’ll be considered self-serious if the film maintains a consistently dark or foreboding tone. Nevertheless, Peele’s comedy roots save him from being cringe-inducing, so this concern isn’t exactly strong.
I don’t think it’s fair to compare this film with something like “Get Out.” It’s clear that Peele doesn’t want his audience to think every output of his is going to be something like that film. Guessing the trajectory of his filmmaking career, it is my assumption he intends to stir discussion and encourage storytellers to have faith in their own imaginations. In that regard, I believe he succeeds in creating something people will talk about for years to come.
I feel like I’m grasping at straws here. I know I need to watch this film again and again to refine my already-shaky impression of it.
There isn’t much to say other than to recommend you go see this film and support original stories. Don’t let the system of remakes, reboots and adaptations tell you there’s nothing else out there. If we lose the fledgling original content creators we already have, then nothing will ever be new again.
“Us,” like “Get Out” before it, is unlike anything else out there and it comes from a mind that has the utmost faith in his imagination. A non-diegetic lesson to be learned here is to trust that little inkling of inspiration you have. Allow it to blossom—and if it doesn’t, burrow beneath the surface and slide down the rabbit hole to your imagination; you never know what you might find.
As I’ve previously stated, I need to watch this film again. I need to watch it until I feel like I was the one who made it. In other words, I want to know everything about it. I wouldn’t say this about a film I didn’t enjoy, so even with my small grievances, I cannot recommend ‘Us” enough; it is truly something special. 4.5/5