Us Review: Nyong’o and Duke are standouts in Peele’s new unnerving nightmare
Get Out was not only a huge cultural hit when it came out back in 2017 but put Jordan Peele on the map as new name to watch out for in the horror/thriller community. However, while I absolutely adore Get Out as it touches on important social themes about race and has an excellently intriguing narrative, I never really considered it to be a horror movie. I really only see it as a dark-comedy/thriller rather than a new triumph in horror. All of that looks to change, though, with Us as the trailers have given off home invasion vibes with a premise that’s visually compelling.
Peele definitely goes into a much stronger horror direction with this tale of doppelgangers leading to a film that has an intense amount of fun, suspense, and eeriness that will have you coming back for seconds.
The film follows Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o), a mother who had a tragic experience when she was younger where she says she met a doppelganger/look-a-like. When she returns to the same to area with her husband (Winston Duke) and two kids (Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex), she is filled with nervous feeling and notices small coincidences that she sights as a sign of her past coming for her. These fears turn into actuality as they are visited and terrorized by a doppelganger family that forces them to go on the offensive and figure out how this is happening before its too late.
Us really showcases Peele’s mastery of creating suspense and characters that are incredibly intriguing to watch. The film’s premise, while incredibly simple at a first glance, has so many details that have implications to the real world as well as clues to what’s really going on with the doppelgangers—a true Peele special. Even on a second viewing, I couldn’t stop finding clues and details that are subtly thrown in by Peele that had me thinking about the film in a different way and had me looking up the meaning to certain signs that Peele shows. It’s something that I love about Get Out and it’s incredibly well-executed here.
The entire film has this air of mystery to it that’s engaging and drew me in as soon as the doppelgangers showed up. Once they do, the film really kicks off and Peele utilizes different aspects of other sub-genres of horror to create a unique experience with Us. There’re elements of home invasion films, zombie movies, and there’s even a dose of revenge flicks. It’s really fun to watch unfold and with the excellent dual performances from the entire cast.
Nyong’o’s performance is award-worthy and one of the best leading performances I’ve seen lately. As Adelaide, Nyong’o brings a confident performance that showcases her will to survive and protect her family. As Red, Adelaide’s doppelganger, she brings true terror to the film and creates eerie moments that carry throughout the film. It’s surely a performance that will be recognized as iconic to the horror genre. Duke also has a standout performance of his own as his character, Gabe, serves as an outlet for Peele’s comedic writing to come to Us’ formula. I will say that Gabe’s comedic personality did get old after a while, but Duke’s genuine delivery keeps it from getting completely old and shows that he’s a strong up and coming talent to watch out for.
The only place where I felt the film faltered was with it’s ending and explanation of how the sudden appearance of these doppelgangers are connected to Adelaide and her family. Personally, the ending lacked that gut-punching moment and it failed to surprise me as I had my own gut-feeling that the story was going in that direction. It’s not a bad twist nor does it even come close to ruining the excellent end-sequence that’s perfectly highlighted by bone-chilling score from Michael Abels, but it made me question the logic and validity of some of the concepts Peele presents in the film.
While I won’t say what the twist specifically is, I will say that I mainly surrounds the connection between Adelaide and Red and implies a sense of control between the doppelgangers and the normal people. I think the twist actually works very well in understanding Adelaide’s more reserved and nervous feelings towards the doppelgangers, but it made me question aspects about Red’s plan and her personality. There’s also some logic of Red’s description of how her and Adelaide initially meet that feels left out, which is strange as we get a great detail about the world that Red and the other doppelgangers exist in.
Red also attempts to establish and idea of control between the doppelgangers and normal people that seems pretty straightforward at first but is a little confusing. Personally, I found clues that make the claim the film makes kind of ambiguous and it made me unable to buy into what the film was trying to tell me. This could be a part of Peele’s use of ambiguity to display themes in Us, but it’s tough to say.
Regardless, Us is another home-run for Peele as he crafts an engaging story full of uncomfortable tension and truly amazing performances from Nyong’o and Duke that combine to showcase his quick mastery of the genre. It’s an incredibly early awards favorite and I think it will be a strong contender when awards season rolls around again just as Get Out did just a couple years ago.
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