Monday, 22 April 2019

Review: Us

Us (second-pass*1)
Cert: 15 / 116 mins / Dir. Jordan Peele / Trailer

I'm always in awe of any film which manages to convincingly show a maze of mirrors without also revealing the camera crew. And here, that's not even the cinematic finale, it's on the starter menu...

So as well as sounding like one of the nicest and most erudite people you'd ever want to meet, Jordan Peele goes from strength to strength artistically, using the tempered fury of Get Out then changing direction a little (without dropping down a gear) for his new film, Us.

Peele creates a movie which can be simultaneously enjoyed as a slickly assembled, surreal home invasion horror, and also a bitingly acerbic breakdown of repression, duality and societal paranoia. Best of all, he makes this look effortless. Us is a film about reflections, shadows, the differences between the two and the places where they overlap. It is almost oppressively intricate.


Cinematographer Mike Gioulakis makes great use of the 360° sets, escalating the claustrophobia and submerging the audience right in it. And even with the everyone gradually dialling things up to 11*2, there's not a dud performance int the entire movie. It's excellently cast and Peele brings them all together like a conductor at the top of his game. First and deservedly foremost among these though is Lupita Nyong'o, with what could well be a career-defining turn as both Adelaide and her counterpart, Red. She manages to take what in any other production would be a pantomime partnership and instead produces a sinister dramatic ballet of unhinged threat.


Us sells its absurdist concept so well that even when the established beats of conventional horror flicks occur, they still work in the heat of the moment*3 - because 'reason' becomes theoretical when you can't tell what's real. Much like Get Out, when the plot mechanics are finally revealed in the third act of Us, the inherent silliness of the premise means that the film arguably makes even less sense than it did earlier. But anything which can be cinematically brilliant and still raise a plethora of 'how would that work?'*4 questions long after viewing is clearly doing a lot of things right.

A thematic kaleidoscope meets an absolute masterclass. We do not deserve Lupita Nyong'o, and we do not deserve Jordan Peele

So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
Well let's start with Get Out, even though Us comes from a markedly different direction.

Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
It is.

Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
It is - repeat viewings are in order.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Jordan Peele will go from strength to strength, but this is (another) high watermark.

Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
It's possible. If you're wrong about it.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.

Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: Maz Kanata's in this.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…*5

*1 My first-pass of Us was captured in a belated micro- review because as much as I loved the movie, I couldn't quite pull everything together into a full piece (pretty much the point of the micro-reviews, to be honest). Anyway, this second-pass is now late too, but let's just say that Us is every bit as tense the second time it's viewed. The threat, the intensity, the intrigue, every bit. And if that's not a sign of a fantastic flick then what is? [ BACK ]


*3 You know the drill: Why would they investigate where that noise is coming from? Why would they peek out from that open door? Why would they not just run the absolute fuck away at the earliest opportunity? That sort of thing. [ BACK ]

*4 Spoilers, but: Yeah the rabbits are an easily renewable source of food for The Tethered, but what do the rabbits eat? How can a society the same size as the population of the US survive living in tunnels without dying from vitamin deficiency and scurvy from just eating raw rabbit meat? Where did they get all the red fabric to make the outfits from? If the project was long-abandoned by the government, how come there are doubles of the kids? That's not how genetics work, otherwise all brothers/sisters of different ages would look identical. Is the system meant to be running itself down there? What happens to a double when its surface-dweller is killed accidentally? The '11:11' guy carried on living after his counterpart died. What happens when a surface dweller's life is saved with an operation from a naturally occurring genetic condition like cancer, but the double doesn't undergo that operation? What about people arriving in the country via immigration? Where are their doubles? What about Americans leaving the US? This can't work on any technical level, surely? The best part is that I still unconditionally love Us and have still barely even begun to unpack it. [ BACK ]

*5 Seriously though, so much of this movie makes no fucking sense that I cannot in good conscience award it full marks. But I do love it, though. [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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