Jordan Peele’s second feature “Us” may not be as trim and polished as his groundbreaking directorial debut “Get Out,” but the attempt to broaden his canvas and deepen his psychological insights within film is something to respect. Peele kept his famous promise to make a film focusing on the racial aspect of the United States — diving into symbolism, allegories and theories that convey more than just a twisted nightmare of a home invasion by doppelgangers. Hence the title, “Us” isn’t just about us, but plays as a double entendre, also pointing to the U.S.
“Us” tells the story of Adelaide Wilson (played by Lupita Nyong’o), a wife and mother with a traumatic childhood experience that eventually comes back to haunt her while on a summer beach trip to Santa Cruz with her family. Nyong’o killed it as both Adelaide and Red — her doppelganger —, and the range of emotions she displayed was incredible and definitely deserves at least an Oscar nomination. Adelaide’s husband Abraham (played by Winston Duke), also did an incredible job lightening up the plot with his occasional jokes, which are clearly influenced by Peele’s past Comedy Central’s days.
Without revealing too much, it is obvious that Peele loves horror and is deliberately revitalizing the genre as a whole while also paying homage to the OGs, such as Stephen King’s “It” and “The Shining.”
However, Peele isn’t one to stick with a linear storyline of those generic paranormal activities, cliche serial killers, or the abandoned haunted house and vengeful spirits seeking revenge. Peele switches up the horror genre with aspects of everyday life — things that we usually gloss over, so when we hear and see them in movies, it becomes very real. He kills the comforting feeling that we have always associated with our home, families, friends, and even ourselves to become our worst nightmare — creating an ominous and uncanny feeling that leaves audience suspicious.
Similarly, “Us” does mirror the social commentary of “Get Out,” involving the current state of xenophobia in Trump’s America.
“We’re a country that is afraid of the outsider. We’re afraid of the other, whether it’s within our borders or outside,” Peele said. “And I think we fail to point a finger inward, we’re capable of really messing up in big ways.”
Peele even hints at a disturbing conspiracy in “Us” that has been circulating for a while now, which regards the government secretly making clones of us to use in unauthorized activities. With the new trend of DNA genetic test kits like “23andMe,” these companies might be selling human DNA and data to the government. Maybe this is Peele trying to subtly warn us about something bigger without too much government suspicion.
While “Us” is frightening, there were some weak spots along the way. The main stand out was the third act, which mostly consists of Red explaining everything to Adeline, telling her the whole story. The doppelganger twist is pretty obvious from the first act and ultimately just repetitive to mention — at least in their world. Having the audience interpret what they saw is way more powerful than an expository overload — it allows their minds and curiosity come out to play. While Peele could have done better, it seemed that he may have needed more time and wasn’t given enough to make “Us” really stand out.