Review: “Us” Is A Strong Sophomore Effort From Director Jordan Peele
Jordan Peele’s new film “US” balances horror, thrills, comedy, and layers of meaning within that takes you on a ride you won’t expect.
Since Peele put himself on the director map with his last film “Get Out,” expectations were high for “US.” Although “US,” doesn’t come with the layered meaning of racism within society, it plays with psychology and other similar aspects within society.
The movie’s opening credits start with a white rabbit caged in a lab. As the camera zooms away we see a whole room of caged rabbits. Rabbits are known to be symbols of prey or fertility, setting the tone for the movie right off the bat.
In an interview with Rotten Tomatoes: Peele was asked about the rabbits: “Rabbits, you can tell in their eyes, they have the brain of like a sociopath. If you put a rabbit brain in a human body, you have Michael Myers, the killer. They have no empathy,” Peele said.
Maybe Peele is just afraid of rabbits.
Once the bunny scene fades away we are left with a quote about the thousands of tunnels under the United States that “have no known purpose at all.” We are then dropped in 1986 at a pier in Santa Cruz, California.
Like every horror movie ever, the daughter of a young family wanders off while her parents are distracted by events on the pier. She finds herself wandering through an adventure house with the ironic name “Vision Quest: Find Yourself.” It is there she … well, finds herself, but not without letting out a scream before the scene ends.
We are then introduced to a family in current times while they are traveling to a vacation home in … Santa Cruz. The mother seems stressed after arriving at the home, implying that she may be the girl from the previous flashback.
The evening of their visit home they see a shadowed family in the parking lot all holding hands. The uncomfortable vibes are met with comedic value as the father tries to be a macho man and defend his property. The comedy within this scene is also accompanied by classic hip-hop jams in the background. This, I believe, is a unique stance in a horror thriller, I can’t say I’ve seen done before. The bizarre atmosphere works well when the action begins.
If you have seen the previews, it will be no spoiler that the intruding family is actually a copy gone wrong of the terrorized family – the ones called “US.”
Peele plays with the concept of having deranged doppelgangers, however, at some points, I wasn’t sure if they were evil superhumans or just a normal malicious person. I still don’t believe I have the answer.
Peele works with this gimmick really well, but as critic David Edelstein said, “Peele saves the big reveals for the end when they’re effective but too late. In the ways that matter, the attackers are ‘them’ and not ‘us.’”
Edelstein is correct, the course of the movie is freaky, and always maintaining spontaneous and unpredictable moments, but it becomes similar to an action movie towards the end, losing the momentum of the mystery and horror. By the time of the grand reveal, it was not as surprising. “When the movie ends, you can rearrange the pieces in your head and appreciate the breadth of what Peele set out to achieve,” said Edelstein.
The film has a lot of components that are great, the cinematography is superb, the story has a lot of hidden turns, even though some could have been introduced earlier. The mystery was unique and kept me in my seat, even when I was dying of thirst, so I wouldn’t miss an important scene.
The overall message seems to touch upon social constructs between different areas in our society. This includes aspects such as culture, economic status, education, and race. The idea is we sometimes forget that we are all humans with the same interior, but different exteriors.
Verdict: 4 Stars out of 5
Review by Audric Macone
At a Glance:
Director: Jordan Peele
Starring: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex, Elsabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker