Us

Us ★★★½

Perplexing

I have lots of thoughts and lots of feelings about this film, and they're mostly leaning on enjoyment but are also straying on perplexed and conflicted. Everything aside it has to be said right off the bat that the acting performance from both Lupita Nyong'o and Winston Duke here is pretty phenomenal. The film's soundtrack is great, with the various uses and versions of "I got 5 on it" being pretty chilling and exciting, a particular scene near the end to an orchestral version being pretty harrowing. The Cinematography is also awesome, there are lots of great shots throughout the film with lots of variety, and Jordan Peele's direction is likewise on point. I also thought it'd be worth noting that production design of the film's 1986 sets, which were quite atmospheric and convincing.

Us is a very competent film in almost every category for me, except for the writing and story. The film's story feels very sprawling and all over the place with it's scope, and it's kind of exhausting. The film's story feels like a 2-act film, with a first act for set-up and a second act for just a long, exhaustive series of horrors and thrills and revelations. Us is fundamentally ambitious and aims for the sun with the story that it tries to unfold before us, and the film takes itself seriously enough to imply that we should as well, but for me that just helps reveal the film's plot holes and overall how convoluted it all feels. Among other things, the villains in the film act inconsistently and unequally despite portraying themselves as calculated, and their motivations are hard to grasp in the wider context.

It's hard to explain these faults without spoiling the whole film, but the succinct gist here is that the film goes for the big picture when in direction and execution it feels like it would have worked a lot better as a smaller, more self-contained picture. I try my best to not compare films to others in a directors work if I don't have to, but Get Out by comparison is a smaller but tightly wound story that viciously resonates, and Jordan Peele showed that as a writer he's really good at poignantly dissecting smaller (relatively) stories like that. Us on the other hand feels like Peele tried to go for a much bigger and much more ambitious story, and it feels like he stumbled in the process, trying to go for perhaps a bit too much at once. Keeping the scope of the story smaller and leaving just the right amount of information vague much like Get Out, I feel like Us could have been equally resonating and be a much tighter film with the same implications, but by expanding the scope of the story just grand enough I think Peele opened up his film to far too many invited but unanswerable questions that inherently poke holes in his story. None of this is to say that Peele's script for this film is bad, it's just that he didn't tell a bigger story as well as he has proven he can tell a smaller story.

For me Us is a film that I would definitely love to rewatch; it has most things going for it, the soundtrack, cinematography, direction, acting, and tone are all pretty great, but it's a bit jumbled in it's narrative and writing. The film is biting in it's commentary, but the commentary feels weakened by the narrative plot holes and convolution that Peele seems to have to invited into his own story himself. Nonetheless, Us is claustrophobic-ally creepy and unsettling for most of it's second act, and is perpetually funny, a lot of the time during it's otherwise creepy segments, and is worth a watch for anyone that is a fan of horror, comedy or Jordan Peele, because Us regardless of your interpretation of the script remains a very well-made film that is unlikely to disappoint.

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