Husband and wife Gabe and Adelaide Wilson take their kids to their beach house expecting to unplug and unwind with friends. But as night descends, their serenity turns to tension and chaos when some shocking visitors arrive uninvited.
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Given the success of Get Out, it was always going to be difficult for Jordan Peele to follow up on its success with his next horror project. On the surface, Us’ story isn’t particularly original, following the home invasion narrative closely. It’s full of plot holes and illogical character decisions that feel plucked right from any other horror film. When you dive a little deeper under the surface however, there’s a myriad of interesting societal and thematic questions here that make Us much closer to an arthouse film than anticipated.
After a traumatic experience as a child, we cut to present day with the Wilson family packing up their things and going on vacation to Santa Cruz. As strange coincidences begin to overwhelm Mum Adelaide, this weirdness quickly turns to chaos when a group of doppelgängers show up and begin to terrorize the family. From here, the film devolves into a home invasion plot which quickly escalates to include the entire country being attacked by doppelgängers.
Despite the story falling short, US does have a lot going for it. The acting in particular is brilliant, with the doppelgängers mirroring their behaviour and showing off the dark side of their personas perfectly. Stylistically, the film looks fantastic too. The choice of colour is excellent throughout and the various camera movements all feel slick and impressive. In particular, one rotating long shot early on when the family are being attacked is easily one of the best moments.
On the surface level, Us fails to really capture the right level of horror. Unlike Get Out, which just about managed to scrape through its tonal shifts, Us is inconsistent throughout the film and it ultimately offsets the tension. For every nerve-wracking moment and segment of horror, there’s an equal amount of comedy. Early on when the family are sat down opposite the doppelgängers there’s some real tension in the air. This unnerving moment is then shattered by a joke about a boat. It’s something that crops up numerous times through the film and feels more clumsily implemented than it should.
Numerous bouts of iconology, symbology and metaphors are made here and if you really start to deconstruct everything, Us is actually quite a profound film. There’s a lot of social commentary here around slavery, class, society and our subconscious suppression of our “dark side” that makes for quite thought provoking viewing. When you deconstruct the movie that way, Us is far more enjoyable and certainly worth multiple viewings.
Whether anyone will want to look beyond the surface level of the film and examine its themes more closely is up for debate. Going into this one expecting a straight forward horror, you’re almost certainly going to be disappointed. The tonal shifts between horror and comedy don’t mesh well at all and the overall logic of the doppelgängers (and the family) shatters some of the allure with this one. Despite that, Us is an interesting and deeply thematic film, one that, at times, gets too wrapped up in its own themes that it forgets about the plot entirely.
The Movie Diorama：
Us is tethered to enormous pressure, but only just succeeds. Jordan Peele has now made a name for himself in Hollywood. 'Get Out', in my opinion at least, is a fresh modern masterpiece and many share the same sentiment. With that, he built up this colossal amount of pressure. Could he actually deliver the same amount of inventive quality that blends a variety of genres and convey social commentary? Well, that's up for debate. Whilst I found Us to be a decent comedic thriller, admittedly the feeling of doubt and disappointment overwhelmed me. Peele's reach far exceeded his grasp, and that consequently hindered the film's execution. A family, relaxing on holiday within a picturesque lake house, encounter another family who inadvertently invade their home and wish to kill them. They soon realise that these crazy individuals are actually "Us".
An innovative premise that upholds an ominous aura. A visionary picture exhuming apocalyptic biblical references, oozing dread and despair through hellish behaviour. Commenting on the social normality of modern American citizens and their reliance on consumerism to differentiate wealth classes. The "Tethered" symbolising one's own self-destruction during times of increased turmoil. Suffice to say, Peele once again has managed to create a world with many layers. Allowing you to "peele" them back immediately after the credits roll. I take no issue with his ambition.
Neither do I have any problems with the characters and performances. This relatively young family provide plenty of banter and dark humour amidst this heightened situation. The parents attempt to provide security for their children, which naturally conjures up themes of parental influence. The children gradually showing signs of inspirations from their parents, whilst succumbing to the violent behaviour of modern society. Swinging golf clubs at jaws and smashing precious rocks into craniums. All energetically performed by its cast, who all feature juxtaposing dual performances. Nyong'o stealing the show with her wildly contrasting performances that felt both unsettling and reassuring. Duke provided much of the humour that enhanced the accessibility and enjoyability of this darkly sinister feature. Moss also gave a surprisingly creepy performance.
Peele's directing style is solid yet again and utilises some inventive shots in an attempt to crank up the tension. Slow panning, dimly lit environments and much focus on character faces, in particular their eyes. The cinematography was gorgeous and aided in visualising various "twists and turns". Oh, and bonus points for playing some Janelle Monáe.
But, despite the overall praise I have for this film, I have issues. Quite a few of them actually. Peele tried so hard in creating this ambiguous vision, that it hindered the numerous genre traits. It's not remotely humorous, it's rarely thrilling and the scares were non-existent. Inadvertently, this forces the pace to be inconsistent and unfortunately the narrative never really gripped me. Putting aside the tonal shifts, these evocative emotions that we the audience are supposed to experience are diminished by Peele's screenplay that exhumes far too much exposition. Towards its climactic third act, nearly every element to the mysterious "Tethered" is heavily explained. This includes their motive, their backstory and their plan. All in precise detail. This clearly detracts from Peele's intentions in creating an ambiguous piece, and unlike 'Get Out', the final twist was predictable from the start. I was never on the edge of my seat, and not once had my mouth gaping from any unexpected twists (despite Peele trying).
In the end, it's just a home invasion thriller with an inventive religious spice. Intended to be something more, yet unable to fully blend the various genres, therefore producing a wave of disappointment. I'm probably going to say something that may ignite some discussion, but it's how I feel. Had this been directed by a lesser known director, the average rating would be much lower. However due to Peele's name being attached, it seems that many (including critics) are being far too generous. Another underwhelming flick from 2019.