Jordan Peele’s Us film review: Are we our own worst enemies?

Us -- Photo Credit: Claudette Barius/Universal Pictures -- Acquired via
Us -- Photo Credit: Claudette Barius/Universal Pictures -- Acquired via /

Us, Jordan Peele’s follow-up to Get Out, has arrived and asks the audience the burning question: Are we truly as removed from the darkest parts of ourselves as we think?

When Get Out experienced its massive success two years ago, all leading up to an Oscar win for Jordan Peele, it established Peele as a potential force to be reckoned with in the world of films and more specifically, original horror movies. Peele has touted himself as a massive fan of horror and the mastery of the horror elements in Get Out prove that without a shadow of a doubt.

Speaking of shadows, the concept of such an idea is tackled by Peele in his new follow-up horror film, Us, which plays around with the idea of our darker sides being forever connected to our psyche and well-being. Just as thematically charged as his previous film, Us sees Jordan Peele tapping into Twilight Zone-esque levels of large-scale horror that this may have well been the pilot episode for the revival he will be hosting this April.

Us has everything going within the film itself: Social and political commentary, Home Alone references, bloody and horrific violence set to N.W.A, and biblical references that place the implications of Us to a completely different plane of horror than one might expect from what appears to be a familiar home invasion-style horror film. But how does Us deliver on these massive ideas and expectations?

“There’s a family in our driveway”

Us hints at the truly cosmic horror right from the opening scene set in 1986, where a young Adelaide (Madison Curry) is on a birthday trip to a Santa Cruz beach with her parents. Even from the opening scene, there’s something that’s just a little off about the scene, from the way the characters are interacting to the various strange characters that occupy the crowded beachfront. Something’s wrong and little Adelaide seems to know, but not exactly what it is.

This is a mindset that Us keeps for virtually the entire film as we follow Adelaide as an adult (Lupita Nyong’o) with a family of her own, as they travel back to Santa Cruz for a nostalgic vacation. Everything seems to go swell until they receive an unexpected visit from a family of red jumpsuit doppelgangers, looking exactly like Adelaide and her family.

Us — Photo Credit: Claudette Barius/Universal Pictures — Acquired via
Us — Photo Credit: Claudette Barius/Universal Pictures — Acquired via /

What I described may seem like a natural home invasion horror film with a slightly absurdist twist and that it may be in some parts, but Jordan Peele is one that is known to subvert expectations and Us is a perfect example of that. The home invasion aspect only touches the surface of what exactly the purpose is behind these doppelgangers and why they are so determined to harm the family.

Peele digs into the human psyche with these elements, forcing the family to confront these beings of what seem to be pure evil. The line between civility and anarchy is practically nonexistent as the family has to dig into the most primal portions of their humanity to try to survive the night, leading to disturbing and darkly comical scenes that almost seem to embrace that descent into madness and our primal nature. Comedy and psychological horror don’t seem to mix, but with an experienced comedic writer like Peele helming, it mixes together perfectly.

Us — Photo Credit: Claudette Barius/Universal Pictures — Acquired via
Us — Photo Credit: Claudette Barius/Universal Pictures — Acquired via /

“They look EXACTLY like us…”

The purpose of the film’s quite frankly bizarre plot is both nuanced and very on-the-nose in what it’s trying to say about the darkest parts of ourselves. Jordan Peele tackles the hypocrisy of American morality and values with a hard-hitting, yet easily accessible screenplay that deftly blends the horrors of humanity’s dark underbelly with a dark sense of humor that both entertains and highlights the nature in which we approach these harsh truths.

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The jokes are not exactly meant to be just funny, but rather they distract the characters from the severity of the situation and their own transformation into what they truly may have always been like.

Us’ dense premise is elevated by a game cast delivering exceptional and wide-ranged performances, starting off with the children of Adelaide, Zora and Jason (Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex). Never too slow for a snarky and quick-witted clapback, the kids have a lot to do with playing their scared selves and their terrifying counterparts and they handle it with strong emotion and a realness that doesn’t seem to be captured within movie children often. Look out for these two in the future!

Winston Duke, fresh off his performance in Black Panther, flexes his comedic chops to successful results as Adelaide’s certified ‘dad’ husband, Gabe. Often the high-spirited father who jokes around and tries to be hip, Gabe gains the most laughs in the film and it never quite reaches into obnoxious territory, always balancing between comedy and genuine terror at a moment’s notice. Us showcases just how versatile and frightening Duke can be and it’s solid proof of the man’s potential as a movie star.

Us — Photo Credit: Claudette Barius/Universal Pictures — Acquired via
Us — Photo Credit: Claudette Barius/Universal Pictures — Acquired via /

But the shining star of Us is another Black Panther member: Academy Award-winning actress, Lupita Nyong’o. Us sets her character up as the main protagonist AND antagonist, leading Nyong’o to carry a large bulk of the film’s story and she does so with terrifyingly brilliant acting and a perfect grasp on her characters. The layers behind Adelaide are dense and compacted, but Lupita brings an earthly charm to Adelaide and a tragic sense of terror in Red (her doppelganger) and does so with a brilliant dual performance that is easily the best of 2019 thus far. I suspect she will be on many best of the year lists come the end of 2019.

Are we our own worst enemies?

Us, despite being from Jordan Peele, never sets itself up as anything too similar to Get Out. The social and racial commentary of the latter made for an accessible, yet challenging film on the topic of American race relations. Us doesn’t come off as easy to grasp, moving past racial tensions to discuss the issues of morality tension and the battle that wages on within all of us that balances our grip on morality and the descent into a primal state of being. Us is very much inspired by The Twilight Zone and it certainly serves as an idea of what to possibly expect this April.

Us — Photo Credit: Claudette Barius/Universal Pictures — Acquired via
Us — Photo Credit: Claudette Barius/Universal Pictures — Acquired via /

Peele’s sophomore effort leaves the audience with more to chew on, though I suspect that not everyone will enjoy exactly how the film goes down and what it decides to explore. It’s a tough subject and not everyone will be down to go a trip of existentialism. Us has hints of the crowd-pleasing nature of Get Out, but the implications are far less accessible, though this does nothing to affect the overall high quality of Peele’s exceptional second effort.

Us is a film that may not always give you what you desire, but it will certainly leave you thinking about the purpose behind the story and the various clues as to what is actually going on. There is a beating heart to Us, but it may not always seem that way due to the film’s progression. Rest assured, Us is an experience that must be had at the theater and one that I suspect you may not regret, even if you don’t exactly get what you came for.

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Final Verdict: 8/10

Us is now available to watch in theaters now! What did you think of the movie? Expertly handled or missed the mark? Sound off below!