I love the moment the lights dim, the curtain widens and the movie starts. Going to the cinema is one of life's great activities and should be enjoyed as much as possible.
Us is the second solo film from director Jordan Peele. Peele made a name for himself with the very creepy and original Get Out in 2017. Get Out was a very well made horror film that avoided much of the lazy film making tropes that many modern horror movies regularly fall victim too. Personally, I'm not someone who often bothers with horror movies, however, a well made, intelligent horror movie, is always worth a look. Having seen and enjoyed Get Out on Netflix, I was certainly keen to see Peele's follow up film on the big screen.
Us maintains Peele's success rate of being original, intelligent and avoiding lazy horror tropes. It is a clever plot that may be interpreted in different ways, depending on your own life experience. Peele is very good at exploring the darker side of life in America, and opening people's minds up to the more unspoken problems in society, particularly racism and the way many people are kept down by the social structures that favour particular groups.
What also makes Peele's movies successful, is that whilst they're horror films, and their certainly scary, the scares are built from the point of view of a psychological fear, in this case, the fear of 'the others', something political parties often use to keep society in line. Horror movies exploded during the 1950s as the cold war took over the world's consciousness, and filmmakers tapped into the fear of what different humans were capable of doing, mostly by symbolising man's destructive ways through the use of monsters and aliens. However, Peele keeps it more reality driven and keeps in mind that humans can be the scariest of monsters.
The film has a number of surprising turns, not all of which instantly brought me on board, but the story did work across the entire run time. There were a few practical elements that didn't really work if you apply logic to it, once the whole concept is explained and the truth is revealed. However, these are easily forgiven in a movie that earns your suspension of disbelief. Having just watched the new version of Pet Sematary in cinemas the week before, I was pleased to see that this film spent around thirty minutes setting up the characters and setting for this story, before it really introduced any real supernatural or creepy elements. This allows you to settle into this world, relate to and care for these characters, and see them in a two dimensional way, something Pet Sematary failed to do.
The film stars Lupita Nyong'o as Adelaide Wilson, who as a young girl, had a traumatic encounter with a doppelganger at an amusement park. Now an adult woman, married to Gabe (Winston Duke) with two children, Adelaide still feels haunted by the experience. Her family's trip back to her hometown has made her uneasy and she wishes to leave. However, before they are able to leave, another family shows up, and they bare a striking resemblance to all the members of Adelaide's family, and that's not all that's odd about them.
Nyong'o gives a brilliant performance in leading the film. She is both equally able to play the distressed and scared victim, but also able to show great strength and fight back. She is also able to portray a number of other characteristics required by the plot very effectively. Duke is solid as the husband who is a bit slow to react, but he adds a light touch to the film that is needed to keep the film becoming too overwhelming for the audience. The children, played by Shahadi Joseph and Evan Alex, are very strong in their dual roles, particularly Joseph.
The cinematography is excellent, although many scenes are exceptionally dark. This is intended, however, as it fits the concept of the plot very well. It also keeps the actors well hidden, adding to the mystery and leaving you unsure for sometime exactly what they are doing. This allows Peele to reveal only what he wants to reveal. Peele has a great understanding of good horror film making.
The musical score, written by Michael Abels, is very cinematic, with good melodic themes, with clever use of dissonance through compositional devices, rather than relying on lots of low-frequency noise to create atmosphere (in the way Pet Sematary did). The score supports the pacing of the film very well.
Us might not land all its punches for everyone. But if you enjoy horror films that work hard to tell a real story and use proper cinematic devices to impact on your emotions and feelings (not to mention use symbolism to create interesting social discussion topics for after the movie has ended), then Us is definitely worth a look, especially on the big screen.