Jordan Peele proves he’s not a one-hit-wonder with his latest film “Us”
Jordan Peele’s sophomore horror film “Us” premiered on March 22, earning $71.1 million in its opening weekend. Following in the success of Peele’s 2017 debut film “Get Out,” “Us” left audiences in awe, wonder and absolute horror — a recurring staple in Peele’s growing body of work.
The film follows the Wilson family on a beach trip to Santa Cruz, Calif. Wife and mother Adelaide, played by Lupita Nyong’o, is apprehensive about returning to the town where she had a traumatic experience in her youth. This experience unravels in flashbacks throughout the film and involves Adelaide meeting a clone of her childhood self and a funhouse hall of mirrors. As the trip wears on, Adelaide becomes increasingly nervous until one night, a family dressed in red jumpsuits appears in her driveway.
Peele’s intricate storyline depicts a failed scientific experiment that left a society of clones to live out their days underground, mirroring the lives of their aboveground counterparts. However, Adelaide’s doppelganger, named Red, has lead a revolution to sever the ties between the aboveground society and their clones or their “tethered” as they are referred to in the film.
The rest of the movie follows the real Wilson family as they attempt to escape the wrath of their exact clones.
Much of the film’s subtle and nuanced terror comes from Nyong’o’s portrayal of both Adelaide and Red. Nyong’o depicts the two characters brilliantly; viewers must constantly remind themselves that they are indeed played by the same actress. From how Nyong’o carries herself in both roles to the terrifying voice she uses for the underground counterpart, Nyong’o is the sole force behind the nightmare-inducing horror of the film.
The film’s score, produced by composer Michael Abels, adds to the suspense and terror as well. From the chilling opening track “Anthem” played over the image of thousands of rabbits in cages, to the final battle scene between Adelaide and Red, to an unnerving version of “Pas De Deux,” the score works to build ominous tension. Perhaps most notably would be the terrifying remix of “I Got 5 On It” by Luniz, which was featured in the film’s trailer. The vintage hip-hop track is slowed down and turned into a chilling anthem for the film, taking something from pop culture and making it eerie, which is something Peele does very well.
Peele’s skills as a writer and filmmaker have only increased since the success of “Get Out,” proving that his creative talents have immense staying power. “Us” is by far Peele’s most frightening film yet, but it also has more comedic moments and levity than “Get Out.” On the whole, “Us” is simply bigger; the stakes of the plot, the worldbuilding and the filmmaking budget have all grown since Peele’s directorial debut.
That is not to say that “Us” is a perfect film, however. There are some tone and pacing problems that hinder the storytelling.
In an article for the New York Post, Sara Stewart commented that the film “moves in fits and starts; its pacing isn’t that of a standard horror movie. It rarely resorts to cheap scares, but occasionally slows to a crawl.”
While “Us” does not feel as clean cut or polished as some fans may have found “Get Out” to be, it’s due to the fact that Peele is unafraid to take risks in his films. He created a bizarrely weird and challenging plot that most filmmakers besides Peele would not have been able to achieve, even if there as some bumps along the way.
As per any Peele film, the movie includes symbolism and commentary on social issues. While the commentary is more ambiguous in this film, the underground society of doppelgangers represent marginalized groups who feel as though they have been forgotten.
Richard Brody of the New York Times praised Peele’s “radical vision of inequality, of the haves and the have-nots, those who are in and those who are out.”
In the film, when Adelaide asks who the doppelganger family is, Red answers simply, “We are Americans.” The film is aiming to understand what exactly makes us human, and what the difference between the monstrous counterparts and the below ground personas truly are. “Us” is currently playing in theaters everywhere.
Written By: Alyssa Ilsley — firstname.lastname@example.org