It’s not very often that a film is so striking, so complex and so delicious that attempting to write a review of it proves overwhelming. Where am I supposed to start with reviewing Jordan Peele’s Us? The director’s follow up to his 2017 debut confirms the true, consistent talents of Peele, undoubtedly a horror film auteur regardless of only being two films into his career. Get Out sucker-punched audiences exactly two years ago – a refreshing, enticing take on modern horror cinema. Smart, satirical and spooky, Get Out became a favourite with audiences and critics alike and drew attention back to how powerful the often overlooked genre can be. Having opened South by Southwest Festival a fortnight ago, Us has now crawled into cinemas across the globe grabbing audiences with its technical brilliance, horrifying narrative and haunting performances. I saw Us two days ago and it’s still refusing to relinquish its grip on me. It’s impossible to briefly summarise such a layered and potent piece of work, but in short: whilst vacationing in Santa Cruz, a young American family find themselves terrorised by a group of sinister doppelgängers. In their fight for survival, the matriarch must confront a traumatic incident from her childhood which appears to be linked to the terrors her family now face. Us blends violent horrors with a consistent charisma. The film’s stunning visual palette is varied and versatile – there is a rich use of colour reminiscent of Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk. Meanwhile, splattered across the canvas are a handful of stellar performances including Winston Duke and Elisabeth Moss. At the film’s forefront is Lupita Nyong’o, steering the ship confidently in a career-best performance that’s set to be one of the most memorable of the year.
Splitting its time between present day and 1986, Peele merges nostalgia with paranoia and crafts time and place as well as he does the dimensions of the family at the film’s centre. The inspiration and influence of horror cinema greats is evident, delicately scattered throughout a film that is first and foremost an original and authentic piece of horror. Trauma and the psychology of it is central to the film’s story whilst self-image and identity also remain clear focuses for Peele. Mirrors, scissors and counterparts – just some of the parallel imagery littered throughout. If you’ve seen the film’s trailer you’ll be familiar with the use of 1995’s hip-hop anthem ‘I Got 5 On It’ – expertly distorted and reimagined so it’s equal parts its original self and a mutated, ‘Wes Craven-esque’ horror theme. Peele’s use of music (one particularly memorable sequence incorporating NWA’s ‘Fuk Da Police’) is just one element that makes both Us and Get Out just so utterly cool. You can’t help but feel aware of just how confident the film is; there’s no ego but a lot of self-assurance. It makes for an all the more enjoyable experience for an audience who feel instantly in capable, skilled, safe hands. Peele’s work, in regards to style and ambition, is consistent but vast. All eyes remain of Peele who has done what would have seemed practically impossible just two weeks ago. He’s followed up a flawless debut with something not just as good but something both familiar and separate. Astounding performances, beautifully entwined technical elements and a seductive, dense plot; Us lets us bear witness to Peele’s continued directorial growth – a delectable pleasure.
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