Jordan Peele’s sophomore feature is a free-flowing tale of terror
Article written by Millicent Thomas
It’s near impossible to not compare Jordan Peele’s highly anticipated second feature Us with its sensational 2017 predecessor, Get Out. His Oscar-winning feature debut wowed audiences and broke records, and Us is no different. The film just scored the second-biggest opening weekend for an original feature in history, bringing in $70 million, being beat only by Avatar. This alone is a huge cinematic achievement.
The film itself follows an American family on an annual visit to their summer home in Santa Cruz. Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o), her husband Gabe (Winston Duke) and two children, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex) are instantly likable. A cool young family who banter over the dinner table and listen to old school hip-hop in the car. Beginning as your typical home-invasion drama, the film subverts the classic trope until your ‘home’ is literally your country. The monsters invading, or ‘the tethered’ as they are branded here, speak a bone-chilling line when asked: “What are you people?” – “We’re Americans.”
Lupita Nyong’o gives an astounding performance as both Adelaide and the leader of the tethered, named only in the credits as Red. Applying a distinct voice and physicality to each role, she’s completely terrifying as she walks with pin-straight posture and fast animalistic movements when Red. The rest of the family and supporting cast are all on top-form also, there is no weak link here, nothing takes you out of the world Peele has created. Praise must also be given to Michael Abel’s extraordinary score, in which hip-hop anthems from the likes of NWA blend seamlessly with blood-chilling strings. He somehow turned Luniz’ I Got 5 On it into one of the scariest songs to grace radio this year.
However, something stops Us from reaching its full potential. Where Get Out felt contained, focused, and streamlined, Us feels a little more haphazard. The film proposes ideas of interest and seems to drop them and offer others as it pleases – a lot is set up with no pay-off. The spectrum of focus is simply too vast.
In some ways, Us is an exploration of the hidden underclass. How the haves and have-nots clash and collide and cannot co-exist. In other ways it’s a classic Jekyll and Hyde tale, Adelaide’s shadow follows her and exploits her darkest side all her life. Yet, it could simply be argued that Us explores all these things and doesn’t have to choose just one. But for an audience, this can feel like a narrative mess that simply can’t make up its mind. In spite of this subjective flaw, Us proves itself as compulsory viewing for horror fans.
Photo Credits: Wikimedia Commons