Let’s get crazy.
Us is Jordan Peele’s follow-up to his almost universally loved Get Out, so the stakes were quite high for this one.
We follow the Wilson family as they are taking a family trip to an old beach house. Before the film even gets underway, we have fun characters. The dad, Gabe (Winston Duke) is a bit of a kid at heart and brings an earnest levity to almost every scene. The mom, Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) brings a more reserved, but loving presence to the dynamic. Their kids, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex) prove that films can have realistic kids who aren’t terribly annoying.
Anyone who has seen a preview knows that dark doppelgangers of the family arrive at their home after a trip to the beach. What this means practically is that every actor is playing double-duty, and Peele gets some amazing performances out of everyone. Nyong’o is the clear show stealer and shows a wider range in this one film than most folks do in their careers.
The technical aspects of the film are fantastic. The sets, lighting, sound, music (which is odd for me to say), and the pacing all work great. When hell finally breaks loose, we are treated to one of the best horror segments in recent years. The initial night assault is some of the most fun I have had with a horror film since the first time I saw Night of The Living Dead. The roughly 40 minutes this sequence goes is simply a ton of fun.
Yet, the film falters.
The film is loaded with imagery of identity, self, colonialism, and race, but it doesn’t take these ideas to their needed conclusion. The interiority of the central thesis is squishy (no spoilers here) and the payoff is incredibly disappointing. The last thirty minutes of the film cram too many ideas in too quickly to have a profound meaning. We also get twists via red-herrings and false information given to the audience, which means the twist is manipulative and not coherent.
Us reminds me a bit of Hereditary in that we have a great horror film that falters in the final act. I think Hereditary holds it together more because despite a jarring conclusion, it made narrative sense. The rationale given here doesn’t make sense on a basic level, and the addition of a last-minute turn renders a lot of dialogue categorically impossible to have occurred. I know that probably doesn’t make a lot of sense, but people wouldn’t be where they said they were or have the thoughts they say they do given the circumstances.
Can a movie be enjoyable with a flubbed ending? I think that will vary depending on how much narrative tightness matters to you. The more you tug at this one the more problems you will see. Peele may end up being a long-running powerhouse of a director and writer, but this one doesn’t stick the landing.