Us

Us ★★★

I really think the level of adulation and, hence, expectation heaped on Jordan Peele after Get Out is completely over the top. And, as lightly as he might seem to wear that weight of expectation, I think it's affected his second film hugely.

About an hour in to Us, I was overjoyed at the thought that he looked to have managed to deliver on the promise anyway. I was totally gripped, pretty frightened and utterly intrigued as to what the hell was going on in this story. But, man, does this movie shit the bed in a major way in the final act - to the point where I really felt my previous enjoyment was undermined.

The issue is that most of the appeal with the set up in the first and second acts is in the intrigue of the situation. It was exciting to ponder what the real story was behind these doppelgangers and why they were acting this way. That doesn't mean I needed a perfectly rational explanation - if this plot had remained fairly obscure, I probably would have been OK with it. But the explanation when it does arrive is just pretty lame, and it's delivered in such a clunky expositionary fashion. And then that sting in the tail at the end is so badly misjudged. It's not even a surprise - the possibility had occurred to me earlier on, but then I thought, "No, that would be stupid, he wouldn't do that." And then he does.

There's no escaping it - the problem is in the writing. Now, for me, Get Out was a great film mainly because it was one of those perfect scripts. And this is why I've been uncomfortable with Peele being declared as this master of horror, a modern day Hitchcock, etc etc. Really, how likely is it that he will ever write another script as good as Get Out? With Us, he has tried too hard, and I'm sure the pressure on him to get something out quickly has been massive.

I'm getting echoes of M Night Shyamalan here. He's a writer director, his first film was a huge hit and his script for it was pretty much perfect. His second film was fairly good, and everyone was so keen for him to keep knocking it out of the park, they gave him the benefit of the doubt. But his subsequent films had a definite air of him trying desperately to recapture what he had achieved in The Sixth Sense, with diminishing returns. I really hope Jordan Peele doesn't go the same way - but this ridiculously hysterical praise isn't helping him.

Besides the poor resolution to the story, Us has other problems. In an attempt to echo the easy, natural humour of Get Out, for instance, there are numerous comic asides inserted in the most inappropriate places (the family joking about who'd killed the most doppelgangers, after the gut wrenching horror of the previous sequences, is one example of jarring, misfiring comedy).

But there are also moments where we get a strong hint of what Peele can do. The horror is pretty great in the middle of the film - this is a much scarier movie than Get Out. My favourite moment is the shot of the doppelganger twins on the mezzanine looking down at their parents with those demented smiles. And Lupita Nyong'o is really fantastic in such a difficult dual role - she almost makes it all work, that's how good she is.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not hating on Peele. I think he's a huge talent, and I think he'll go on to have a terrific career. But, despite the pretty strongly positive critical reaction to Us, I think after 3 or 4 more films from him, most people are going to realise Us will probably belong on the bottom of the pile. He needs to just make a coherent and cohesive movie, maybe not trying to be the allegorical voice of the times. Dial down the ambition a touch on being a social commentator and concentrate on telling a good story - the biting satire will shine through anyway, I'm sure.

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