When I was younger, I loved the films by M. Night Shyamalan. It was the twist endings that really did it for me. First it was The Sixth Sense (1999), then Unbreakable (2000), and finally Signs (2002). My affection for the director finally began to wane when I watched The Village (2004). It wasn’t that I hated the film, but it was the expectation of the twist. I went into the film looking for it and found it quite easily.
The same can be said with Jordan Peele’s second film, Us (2019). Having watched Get Out (2017), I went into this new film expecting and looking for the twist. I didn’t have to look hard for it either and found it rather quickly. Having said that, I found the film enjoyable, thought provoking, and a solid thriller with a side of comedy.
The story of Us begins with an unknown tragedy involving a girl wandering off by herself at a beach in 1986. Flash forward to the present and we find that the girl has grown up and has a family of her own. They are traveling to the same location, Santa Cruz, where that traumatic mystery took place. The family of four is soon assaulted by a doppelganger family. It’s kill or be killed for the family as they try to survive and figure out what provoked this deadly family reunion.
The first thing that convinces me of the quality of the film is the acting. Each actor has a killer clone, meaning that the actor plays two completely different roles, sometimes in the same scene. This onscreen duality is down right creepy. There is a scene where the mother, played by Lupita Nyong’o, has a discussion with her evil twin. Even though the characters share the same face, the voice and mannerisms are completely different. Nothing can be counted against the film where acting is concerned.
The film is listed as a Horror/Thriller. In the Horror department, it gets all the check-marks. When it comes to a Thriller, that’s where the film falters. I ended up laughing more than I felt suspense or was scared. While laughter is greatly appreciated, and necessary, in a thriller it should only be used after a big scare. As the tension builds, the big scare is the climax of that tension. Afterwards, humor is used to put the audience at ease. Essentially, humor primes the audience to be scared again. In Us, it’s heavily used even during the tension building. The father, played by Winston Duke, is a prime example. Duke plays an excellent typical all-American corny joke spurting father. The problem is that during scenes where he should be scared or fighting for his life, he’s cracking jokes. Instead of the audience feeling dread that the father may die, the audience is laughing at the well written jokes.
Getting into the meat and potatoes of the film, the theme of Us I can’t really give you an accurate evaluation, for two reasons. The first reason is that I don’t want to spoil the film for you. There is more than one twist to this film which are interesting and thought provoking. The second reason being that I would like to view it a second, and possibly a third, time. This is one of those films where you really must be open and mindful throughout the film. Even then, trying to fully understand the meaning behind what Jordan Peele created will most likely take a second viewing.
Even though this film is based around a family, it is certainly not meant to be viewed by a family. The film is rated R for violence, terror, and language. There is only suggestive sexual content, but the film is highly violent with scenes of murder and other violent acts. There is also a high content of profanity. Us is not considered to be family-friendly.
Overall, I thought that Peele’s second entry into the Horror/Thriller genre was a solid one. However, it was plagued with too much humor and a predictable twist. If I had to give some advice to the director, I doubt Jordan Peele will ever read this, I would advise him to be careful to not fall into that trap that Shyamalan fell into where the endings were so predictable that it made the films un-enjoyable. Us won’t be the greatest film of 2019, but I’ll wager that it’ll be in the top twenty. In fact, I’ll put five on it.