Through the Looking Glass
After Jordan Peele’s monumental success in his directorial debut Get Out (a film I thoroughly enjoyed and consider a masterpiece), I was a little skeptical going into his next project Us. Would this comedian turned horror director be able to strike lightning twice in a row, or would expectations and pressure overtake him like so many other great directors? Luckily, Jordan Peele has delivered another standout hit moving away from the social commentary realm into full blown horror. While Us does not have the obvious social commentary that Get Out, it still manages to feel unique and blend together horror, comedy, and smart storytelling in a fantastic manner.
The Wilson family consisting of Adelaide, Gabe, Zora, and Jason all go on a family vacation to kick back and relax. The luxurious and calm feeling doesn’t last for long as there is always a sense of eeriness in the background especially with Adelaide having a traumatic childhood experience in the same place. Their vacation is quickly escalated when a family of doppelgangers dressed in red jumpsuits and carrying gold scissors appears at their doorway, the movie escalates into something more sinister and undeniably entertaining to watch.
All of the performances in this film deserve the highest praise. They are not only playing one but two characters at the same time which demands a wide range of acting from them. They have to act scared yet menacing, brave yet sinister, calm yet foreboding, all four of the family members do an excellent job of conveying a wide variety of emotions and expressions through dynamic physical movements to the way they change their voices. It provides a haunting and entrancing experience that I found fascinating.
Particular props go to Lupita Nyongo who plays the matriarch of the Wilson family and the leader of the evil “Tethered”. The range she has is outstanding and should receive some recognition come awards season next year! The other family members also possess a great duality with Gabe (Winston Duke) providing perfect comedic timing and the kids who show that child actors can bring a lot to a film when given a great script.
While the premise of the movie may seem simple, Jordan Peele’s script and storytelling capabilities enhance the narrative. The “Tethered” are given a surprising amount of development that is both tragic yet exciting. They are a group who are motivated and disciplined making them more interesting to watch on screen than just to see random violence. The narrative goes through a variety of twists and turns that kept me squirming in my seat with what would happen next. Each new scene or setting packs an unpredictable punch that left me both confused yet invested. The film definitely requires more than one watch to pick up on all the clever story crumbs that Peele has placed.
As I said before, this film is less of a social commentary (although there are some great socialization matters to discuss) and leans more into the horror realm. The film is scary, and at times it can be terrifying and Peele doesn’t an excellent job of crafting that. He knows what makes a moment terrifying and how long to linger on moments to make you the right amount of uncomfortable. He doesn’t use cheap jump scares or horror tropes to let you know that you’re watching a horror film but rather lets the suspense build before an attack happens, giving you the sense that you know something is going to happen you just don’t know when. That’s the true achievement that most horror directors don’t know how to handle, yet Jordan Peele acts as a veteran to the genre to let you feel truly disgusted, terrified, and thrilled all at the same time.
There is also a smart amount of comedy in the film that surprisingly yet again mixes well with the horror elements. A moment of suspense could frustratingly be cut away by a lame joke, but for some reason Jordan Peele finds a way to make it work. You laugh, but not because you’re happy and free, but because you’re terrified and sometimes there is no other response to a situation other than to chuckle a little. It enhances the terror effectively adding a weird sense of realism to the situation.
Peele’s efforts as a director can not go understated, he is truly a revolutionist who has already reached the big leagues of cinema. His use of camera work, acting, lighting, editing, and most importantly music craft impeccable films. One scene in particular utilizes a creepy rendition of “I Got 5 On It” that brings to life a beautifully haunting moment in the film. It is a work of art that can’t be explained but must be experienced when you watch it.
In terms of flaws, the movie does not have many but rather minor nuances that are a bit confusing once everything is revealed. Some of the “logistical” things don’t make a whole lot of sense but the movie also requires some sense of disbelief so I can overlook some of the weirder choices made. All in all, Peele has made another great film that pays attention to detail and subverts many of the normal horror problems that plague the genre.
Us is yet again another great film by Jordan Peele that is unique and clever in both its narrative and direction. The performances are phenomenal, the story has quite a bit of depth other than just a normal slasher film, and the way it is framed provides something different and fresh to experience. I am excited to see where he goes next with his films because soon enough we won’t have films that we classify as “horror” or “thriller” or “comedy”, but rather rather as a “Jordan Peele” film. Something that blends together all of the elements effectively and is something different in it’s own right.