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Us review

by Andrew Ochoa, Features Editor

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Director: Jordan Peele

Starring: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex

Release Date: March 22, 2018

MPAA Rating: R

 

A spider crawls past a plastic recreation. Two twin sisters accidently harmonize. A tool of twin metals haunts and slashes. This is the world of Jordan Peele’s Us, a film for which the term “random” is simply not applicable. The shadow of the director’s endlessly-impressive, Oscar-winning, box-office hit, debut film Get Out haunted his future work. A shadow which was overcome by utilizing intense deliberation and meticulous craft.

The Wilsons are on summer vacation in serene Santa Cruz. All is well on the surface. Children roam beautiful beaches, parents enjoy the company of old friends. But below the peaceful facade, an uneasy feeling of biting pasts follows the family. A film which evolves with each viewing, dwelling in plot is of little use, other than to say the less is known truly is the better.

A grotesque ballad, the horror twists and loops, each refrein more subtle and brilliant than the last, no scene left unmirrored, no frame without metaphor. The striking minimalism of Get Out, swapped for an attention to detail rarely seen. The tropes of the genre deepened to strike an untapped potential. Twists occur not for the shallow excitement of revelation, but to add yet another layer to an already rich metaphor. A metaphor which retreads none of the same waters of the filmmakers previous works, instead showing just how much room in the seemingly narrow genre of sociopolitical-horror there is. “Us: Our own worst enemy,” as the marketing for the film proclaims, is not simply a pithy tagline for a typical doppelganger tale, but instead a true thesis for the theme of a uniquely American fear of the other. As Denis Villeneuve’s early masterpiece Enemy utilized duality as a means of entering the psyche of the disturbed, Us explores a more communal introspection. The richness of the plot is best left to be examined in a spoiler-filled essay, however, its presence is one of the main attractions; its logical-soundness, however, may be one of the film’s few detractors.

The work of the director is complimented astoundingly by the performances. All the cast–Lupita Nyong’o most notably–are playing not just two parts, of course, but giving two complex performances, both open to interpretation. A frighted glare appears the first viewing, a devious one the second. This evolution of meaning is built not only reversible screenplay but on performers utilizing each facial gesture and inflection of tone to their broadest meanings.

Alfred Hitchcock has at least four masterpieces.  Psycho, Rear Window, Vertigo, and The Birds endlessly compete among film critics for the place of seminal work. Should his career stay the course, Jordan Peele’s filmography will soon share this rare air. Long past doubts of a fluke freshman outing, inflicting terror seems effortless for the young writer-director. Us is deep with luscious, meaningful frights, thoughtfully redefining the bounds of genre filmmaking.

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