‘Us’ is Jordan Peele’s second feature film as an independent writer-director, following the widely acclaimed ‘Get Out’ (2017); and with this current venture, he seems to have laid a firm foundation as an Auteur in the genre of horror flicks. In the same vein of ‘Get Out’, ‘Us’ is a layered, metaphorical and satirical horror film which demands multiple viewings to appreciate its true worth.
The story in broad strokes is about a woman, Adelaide Wilson, who suffered trauma as a child while visiting her vacation home and years later, in the film’s current timeline, is suffering the consequences of that trauma on a similar vacation along with her husband and two children. Her past trauma comes back in the form of her and her family’s bloodthirsty doppelgangers. The story follows who the doppelgangers actually are and what they represent.
‘Us’ has all the qualities of a crowd-pleaser. The film does not shy away from jump scares and gore thus satiating the requirement of being a film that keeps its audience at the edge of their seats. It has a major (and probably another) twist in the end that’ll make the audience re-evaluate everything they had seen thus far. It is loaded with easter eggs for movie fanatics who love a puzzling story. The film is also laced with appropriate humor for comic relief. However, in true Jordan Peele style, ‘Us’ is a metaphor for a larger social issue. While ‘Get Out’ dealt with the theme of racial privilege, ‘Us’ seems to have dealt with the theme of ‘social privilege’. ‘Us’ tries to highlight the duality of human nature – Instead of identifying ourselves universally as humans, we identify ourselves only in tribes (which can be based on anything) and this leads to a situation where we become comfortable suppressing ‘others’ lest we forget that invariably there will come a day when the suppressed become the oppressors.
The spirit of the film beneath metaphor is to find yourself – with all the light and the darkness. The film is quite deeply rooted in the American scheme of things and even the title is most likely a wordplay on the United States. Though the United States is a safe stage for Jordan Peele to mount his stories given his origin, it does alienate the world audience to some extent. Nevertheless, the issue of social privilege is definitely prevalent worldwide and that makes ‘Us’ more accessible to a worldwide audience compared to its predecessor.
Lupita Nyong’o (Adelaide) undoubtedly carries the weight of the film on her shoulders and is extremely successful at that. She uses her body language, expressions and voice to create the most terrifying character in the film. This academy award winner deserves many more roles as the protagonist. Since the film is about a family that comes face to face with their bloodthirsty doppelgangers, it required a ton of visual effects. But none of the effects seemed forced on screen and have been executed seamlessly thus serving as a visual treat.
In his movies, Jordan Peele takes the burden of drawing out two parallel narratives – the literal and the sub-textual. Though his hallmark, this style does prove to be a hard sell since at some points he has to give up on logic in the literal narrative and at some points, his sub-textual narrative does not land precisely. However, Jordan Peele admittedly believes in writing a film which is ‘his favorite that he has not seen before’ and only hopes the audience would dig it too. He trusts the intelligence of his audience and he might be surprised that a lot of people share his absurd taste in movies. If you allow it, this film will play on your mind for hours, force you to re-watch multiple times and fall into the rabbit hole of internet discussions till you feel mildly satisfied with understanding it.
This film might not become instantly popular world over, but is definitely one with the potential for a well-earned long term appreciation and shelf life.
Rating – 3.5/5 | Grade – B+
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