22nd Mar2019

‘Us’ Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Anna Diop, Cali Sheldon, Noelle Sheldon, Madison Curry, Ashley Mckoy, Napiera Groves, Lon Gowan | Written and Directed by Jordan Peele

us-poster

Us is Jordan Peele’s second directorial feature after his highly successful and critical acclaimed Academy Award-winning directorial debut Get Out released in 2016. His latest, and miraculously only second, directing effort undoubtedly cements Peele as a true horror connoisseur in the same vein as Alfred Hitchcock, but to compare the two would be a travesty to the ever-evolving talents of Peele. His latest is a perfect combination of filmmaker evolution and understanding of the genre that he crafts so well, with a screenplay from the writer/director that is outrageously effective with leading actress Lupita Nyong’o putting in possibly the best performance we’ll be honoured to see this year, as Adelaide Wilson and her villainous doppelganger Red.

The most impressive aspect of production here is the nuance and visceral quality Peele’s film holds. It’s actually quite breathtaking the sheer amount of subtle elements ranging throughout the screenplay of the film and the fabulous production design by Ruth de Jong. Regarding the screenplay, it’s incredibly clear that Peele is having an absolute blast writing this intensely distressing albeit entertaining picture. The number of homages and slick cues and references ranging from Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Michael Haneke deviously meta Funny Games are all a supplement to the final product with tongue firmly in cheek, yet also deeply embedded with what Peele’s intention is within the genre. The success is even more apparent and scrumptious with how he subverts the expectation of the audience. Even while clearly being a fan of horror and honouring the house that built it, Peele manages to transcend what has been done before, tropes and all, with clear distinctive evolution and definition in his own unique twist and turns that will undoubtedly cement him as an original genre-defining auteur in what will hopefully be a long and vibrant career.

Yet, any casual fan of horror will still appreciate the manner of style and sophistication Peele brings. Especially that of the writing which is just superb. It manages to be incredibly restraint while evolving on its individual and original path with hypnotic gravitas that has you on the tip of an incredibly sharp knife edge throughout. The scares and intensity, of which are plentiful and truly haunting, are never one-note or polarising. Managing to remain fresh and deliciously engrossing even when the opportunity arises to embellish each and every genre convention. The performances are equally as captivating and astonishing to behold. It is indescribable the performance that Lupita Nyong’o brings to proceedings. To describe and not see for yourself would be an utter travesty to the commitment and physical embodiment of such a haunting and enchanting performance. The dual role alone is rather miraculous to pull off but the distinction and variant between the two are mortifyingly frightening from the craft of just a single person, especially what is expressed via the terrific and also terrorising sound design that loves to torture in simplistic ease.

Even with the outstanding performances, there is a visceral quality when one digs deep at the layers. The juxtaposed ideas of what we believe to be our reflection but inhabit a false sense of security are ever so inviting and perplexing to divulge as well as investigate the meaning and expression intended. However, there is a magnificent and grand depth here to unpack and a single viewing will simply not cut it. I can’t imagine this being a one trick pony and the underbelly presumably bubbling up in the following weeks and months, possibly even years will offer a complete contrast to the opinions being divulged now. It’s a sentiment and element so drastically undervalued and expressed in modern cinema, especially that of Horror, of which Peele treats as no victim and as the pioneer of cinema as it once stood in the ’30s and ’40s of Hollywood.

The iconography utilised is frantically haunting, courtesy of the costumes from Kym Barrett, with an astonishingly vivid and abstract utilisation of the appearance and pretence of red that broods a dark spirit of madness and engulfs the screen in each antagonising frame. It becomes almost radical on screen and combined with the terrifically executed cinematography by Mike Gioulakis the sheer gruelling atmosphere provided is unflinching and powerful. With Jordan Peele’s Us, we’re in the midst of an evolution of a filmmaker far beyond his years in play and the restraint showed once again in his companion piece, and directorial debut, Get Out only reinforces what a seismic talent we have in store for the future and a truly promising one at that.

Us is in cinemas now.

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