Jordan Peele has been referred to as the next so many things. The next Steven Spielberg, the next Stanley Kubrick, the next (and better, some would argue) M. Night Shyamalan. But for me, he’s just the first Jordan Peele–the first example of a powerful, talented Black man with a platform, using everything in his wheelhouse to bring us nuanced, political stories about Black people to the big screen. I’ve never seen it before, but I hope to continue to see it for generations to come.
The amount of hype, and expectations, surrounding this movie was insane. Many people were thrilled for the film, as the director’s first true follow up to his debut effort Get Out, which started an amazing and powerful discussion about the monster that is racism in the twenty-first century. Not just the caliber of the creative director attached, but the actors. Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Anna Diop, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. Peele, it seemed, had another hit on his hands–and I am delighted to confirm that not only is Us just as thought-provoking and deliciously scary as Get Out, but it has some of the same levels of sociopolitical commentary.
Us follows Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o), a woman ridden with PTSD about a horrifying, traumatic experience she had when she was a little girl at a fair. Over twenty years later, her and her husband Gabe (Winston Duke) take a trip back to that same summer home, visiting the fair again, with their teenage children Jason (Evan Jones) and Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph). After a short while being there, Adelaide begins to suspect that her traumatic past is coming back to haunt her.
And it is–in the form of a group of soulless doppelgängers known as the Tethered, copies of living beings connected to them by spirit. The Tethered are forced to watch as their human counterparts live happy lives while they suffer. And now the Tethered have found their way out of their entrapment, and they want revenge.
Jordan Peele is truly a master filmmaker, playing with the audience’s expectations and throwing them for a loop every chance he got. The amount of new techniques he’s learned from his experience making Get Out are beyond impressive. With single, long-take shots, Peele is able to convey so much that his script otherwise leaves unsaid. He conducts his twisted creation so skillfully that while watching it, I often forgot I was watching a movie. It seemed so real. And the film’s third act, which plays like the heightened crescendo of a rapidly moving symphony, leaves so many questions unanswered that fans will be dying to see the film again to try and piece together its big twist (don’t worry, no spoilers!)
And that is where Us’s genius lies: that so much of the film is left unsaid, and yet it manages to still make such an enormous impression on the audience. Peele’s filmmaking and cinematography leaves viewers rapt with attention–at my press screening for Us, the audience was entirely silent, except when they were supposed to laugh–and demands to be seen on the biggest screen imaginable.
But Peele couldn’t pull any of it off without his incredibly talented cast. Winston Duke is effortlessly charming and unintentionally sexy as Gabe Wilson, using his natural charisma to make even the corniest of dad jokes funny. His chemistry with Lupita Nyong’o is off the charts–their relationship seemed genuine and trusting, which makes the film’s third act all the more menacing. The children of the film were incredibly likable and charismatic as well–particularly Shahadi Wright Joseph, who steals scenes both as her “normal” self and her Tethered version. That creepy smile sent chills down my spine every time she did it!
The Wilson family as a whole were incredibly likable characters, and they were extremely competent–they knew what to do in the tough situation they were presented with. Plus, it was very touching to finally see a Black family focused on in a horror movie–not the butt of the joke, not the first to die, but well rounded, genuine characters who had important arcs and satisfying personalities.
But as good as the entire cast is (it was wonderful to see Yahya Abdul Mateen II and Anna Diop, albeit briefly), this is really Lupita Nyong’o’s vehicle. This is the first time I’ve seen a Black actress be given a role on the level of Toni Collette in Hereditary, and Lupita nails it, bringing an effortless movie star charisma to her “normal” self, Adelaide, but scaring the pants off me as her Tethered self, Red. I mean, if Lupita isn’t at least nominated for an Oscar for her work here, I’ll be incredibly upset. She managed to flesh out both characters and make them seem like individual people with their own wants and needs, and the moments of horror from her character were genuinely terrifying. This is arguably her best role to date, and now I need to see Lupita play all the villains. Come on, Hollywood!
The film’s world building and logic are watertight, even with so little information divulged. I loved being in the world with the Tethered–it was bone-chillingly creepy, and it was awesome. I wouldn’t be surprised if soon Peele announces a sequel–there’s a lot left on the table, and more than Get Out, Us ends on a note that could definitely be continued down the line.
In conclusion, Us is spine-tingling, doppelgänger fun, and it needs to be seen to be believed. And audiences’ maverick expectations for Jordan Peele’s follow-up to Get Out are more than met here. Not only met, but I dare say they might have been exceeded.