Us takes back into the mind of director, writer, and producer Jordan Peele in his second film, following the success of the smash hit Get Out in 2017. In Us, we follow a family of four as they take a trip to their summer home. Soon after they arrive, they are tormented by their own evil doppelgangers and must fight to survive. In doing so, they begin to unravel a mystery the movie itself can’t even explain.
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While I’m not the biggest fan of Get Out, I do see why people enjoy it and can see the merits behind it. Us is going to be more of the same for me. I can see the brilliance of Jordan Peele, but he struggles to put it all together in this film. This feels like it has a lot of ideas to explore, but doesn’t flesh them all out in a cohesive way. There are a lot of allegories Peele is clearly trying to make, some of which work and some of which don’t.
There is, however, plenty to enjoy. Us leans much heavier into horror than Get Out did. Much of the movie is very scary, and very gory at times as well. I was genuinely creeped out in several moments and a lot of that is a credit to how well Peele shot the film, particularly the “scary” scenes. For a guy that got his start in comedy, he shoots horror really well. While this won’t necessarily quench the thirst of hardcore horror enthusiasts who are looking to be terrified in the theater or jump out of their seats, it does do a good job of blending the horror and thriller elements together.
While the horror is good, the best part of this movie is the performances. The whole cast is stellar, with Lupita Nyong’o as a standout. She steals the show in both her role as the lead and as her doppelganger. Winston Duke extremely charming and brings a lot of fun and humor to his character while also being quietly terrifying as his doppelganger.. Even the child actors, Shahadi Joseph and Evan Alex, neither of which I believe I’ve seen before, turn in solid performances.
Another really good element of this movie is the score. Composer Michael Abels blends songs from the soundtrack with the movie’s own original music in unique ways. It is evident in a good way during several of the more intense scenes. I think it adds a lot to this movie and is one of the better horror scores of recent memory.
While there is a ton that I like about Us, I can’t get past how poorly the story comes together. There’s way too much going on and the movie can’t decide what avenues it wants to explore. None of the explanations I was given for things I had previously been intrigued by were satisfying to me. For every answer I got, more questions were raised because the movie gets in its own way and becomes entirely too complex. The movie would have benefited from being much simpler in both its plot and its actual storytelling.
Without spoilers, there is a twist at the end that I actually loved for all of about 10 seconds before I gave it more thought and realized that it made the movie make even less sense. Like I alluded to earlier, Peele clearly had a lot in his mind for this move, but didn’t take enough time to flesh it out and make all of these ideas more clear, or take some out entirely. I won’t say any more to avoid spoilers, but feel free to drop a comment and we can have some spoiler discussions there.
Overall, Us is frustrating. It was one of my most anticipated movies of the year and sets itself up with so much potential throughout the movie. I want to like it because a lot of it is really good. In fact, despite me not being the biggest fan of his first 2 movies, I can’t wait for Peele’s next one. There’s brilliance in him for sure, but it isn’t in this movie. Too many of the story elements left me scratching my head for me to look past it and for that, I must hand down the following charge for Us:
Ratings from low to high: Felony, Misdemeanor, 10-4, Positive ROP, Golden Donut)