Cast: Lupita Nyong’o,Winston Duke,Elisabeth Moss,Shahadi Wright Joseph,Evan Alex Director: Jordan Peele
It’s difficult to talk about Jordan Peele’s new film Us without getting into spoiler territory because the overall quality of the film is largely dependent on what happens in the final fifteen minutes. I say this because the film, until that point is a very engaging and wonderfully weird mix of Twilight Zone and Funny Games. And much like Get Out, it is also a solid political statement, and way more ambitious in thematic scope.
The less you know about the plot the better – in fact you’ll be rewarded the most if you have no clue of the basic premise. A couple (Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke) and their kids (Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex) drive to their summer beach house for a vacation, but their holiday is interrupted when they’re visited by people no one in their right minds would expect to meet. Things quickly go bananas and our heroine is left to defend her family and uncover the mystery behind why they’re being attacked.
If you loved Get Out and you’re expecting a follow up that is broader in sheer vision, then Us perfectly fits the bill. Not only does it offer dollops of weird slasher genre horror tension, but also the Peele brand of comedy, and both elements work like a well oiled machine. That Peele is a bonafide film geek is obvious when you notice little references and influences from other films, while still maintaining a bizarre tone that renders a uniqueness to his cinematic voice.
The element of surprise is also key here because Peele makes you navigate through a maze just like his protagonists, and taunts you to figure out the mystery, and to its credit, the ultimate reveal is hidden beneath many impossible to fathom layers. There is a moment that bookends the second act, where the family tries to seek refuge in a neighbours’ mansion, and whatever happens in that house pretty much solidifies your interest levels, signalling the filmmaker’s win over the audience.
The performances are jaw-dropping here – you expect Nyong’o to do well and she does, but the children in particular are so good they’ll remain in your minds long after you’ve left the theatres. Peele fully embraces the ‘spooky kids in a horror film’ trope but subverts the cliché at many points, lathering it all with a layer of thought provoking social commentary. Peele also does well in sprinkling little clues all over the film to make you wonder what they mean, and even though hard-boiled genre film buffs may be able to figure out the mystery, what Peele does with it is something no one’s seen before.
Which brings me to the point of contention – the ultimate reveal. When the film finally its curtains, we’re given some information that is so crazy it derails the mechanics of the events preceding the film. As a moment of pure shock value it works, and even as a larger political statement it fits well, but when you begin to think of the mechanics of how things work, the story completely falls apart. It’s a classic case of a filmmaker’s reach exceeding his grasp, and no matter how much fans of Peele try to justify and fill in the logical loopholes, there’s no working around the implausibility of it all. And this is glaring only because Peele is a smart filmmaker, and he could have put in the extra ten percent to iron out the kinks in the story’s mechanics. Peele, seemingly, has dug his own hole because he’s made the film too thought-provoking, and he’s set his own bar so high with his first two films, we expect nothing less than a masterpiece in whatever he makes next.