The Movie Guru: Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke excellent in Jordan Peele’s “Us”
Rated: R for violence, terror and language.
Written By: Jordan Peele.
directed by: Jordan Peele.
Starring: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Anna Diop and more.
Grade: Three stars.
“Us” isn’t exactly a horror movie.
Admittedly, it looks like one. There are a lot of horror elements to it, including a chilling home invasion sequence and a pretty high death count. There’s quite a bit more that might qualify, depending on your particular phobias, but that’s also where the genre gets complicated.
Because, somehow, “Us” doesn’t really feel like a horror movie. Director Jordan Peele clearly decided he wanted to play with elements of both “Halloween”-style horror and zombie films, but he wasn’t content with just a mash-up. He uses those elements in such a new way, mixing them with plenty of his trademark comedy, that the result almost seems to transcend genre. While that makes the movie seem more like an experiment than a story at times, it’s definitely interesting to watch.
I can’t tell you too much about the movie because it’s rich in spoilers, but there are a few facts revealed in the trailers. The main characters are an average family, led by Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke, heading to their beach house for the summer. Everything seems fine until a mysterious family shows up in their driveway one night. This family looks exactly like them, and they have nothing but trouble on their minds.
After Peele’s “Get Out,” it’s natural to try and find a deeper message in his latest work. The plot is complicated enough to offer several different possibilities, but don’t let yourself get too caught up in picking one while you’re watching the movie. This time, deeper meaning doesn’t seem to be Peele’s main goal.
As if it all belonged together
Despite the body count, the movie almost seems to be more playful than anything else. He’ll indulge himself by making the tensest scene he possibly can, then cap it off with a genuinely hilarious moment. He’ll take familiar horror cliches and use them in an entirely different way than the audience is expecting. He’ll incorporate elements from other genres, working them into said horror cliches as if they all belonged together.
The acting is fantastic, especially from Nyong’o. She plays what is essentially two different people, one of which requires a range we’ve never seen from her before. If she wants a future in horror movies, she should have one.
The results are interesting to watch, but taken all together it can leave the movie feeling overstuffed. The audience is almost overwhelmed by everything that’s happening, from the plot to the genre flips. The real test of this movie might be the second time you watch it, because you’ll have had the chance to process everything that’s happening.
One area that might not hold up so well is the ending. It adds a fascinating layer of depth to the movie, but it works best in the moment. Think about it too hard, and it raises more questions than it does answers. It’s a risky move, especially in a movie that skims over its own explanations as much as this one does.
In the end, though, maybe it’s not that much riskier than the movie itself.