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Know Thyself: A Review Of 'Us'

Without a doubt, after just two films, Jordan Peele is one of the more interesting directors working in Hollywood today. He has crafted a personal blend of Horror/Suspense with Comedy, and has struck a responsive nerve with the audience-going public. If his first film Get Out was more suspense than horror, it’s subtext about Race elevated it above other films of the genre; and in his latest, Us, he takes on the tarnished American Dream, while turning up the Horror quotient via a chilling doppelgänger premise.



With what in other directors’ hands could have been a simplistic evil twin/home invasion storyline, Peele turns Us into something rife with social commentary, and an examination of how our worse enemy can often be ourselves - how we often blind ourselves in the pursuit of a hollow ideal. This he creates via the nuclear family of the Wilsons, Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) and Gabe (Winston Duke), and their children Zora (Shahadi Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex). The events of the film surround their holiday return to the coast town of Santa Cruz, California, where Adelaide grew up, and experienced a traumatic event - as a shy, introverted child, she "met" her doppelgänger, and it’s a nightmare she’s shut out as she grew up.



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Beyond the premonitions of how things will go awry, there’s this notion of the American Dream as ironically personified in the Tyler family, friends of Gabe. Kitty (Elizabeth Moss) and Josh Tyler (Tim Heidecker) have twin girls, and thats foreshadowing with a wink coming from Peele. But we can’t anticipate just badly things will go, how creepy, weird, and violent. And it’s a ride we gladly take, as there’s sinister and malevolent events aplenty, with shafts of dark humor.



It's time. US is NOW PLAYING in theaters. Get tickets at link in bio. #WatchYourself

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The acting challenge of having to each create two characters and keep each distinct falls on the entire main cast; but I’d have to single out the women for having the most fun with the concept. While it’s a secondary role, Elizabeth Moss goes far away from her The Handmaid’s Tale lead to gift us with Kitty and her crazy double. But kudos of the highest order are reserved for Lupita Nyong’o. It’s literally like there are two actresses taking on the roles of Adelaide and her doppelgänger, Red. It’s physically demanding, but Lupita carries it off with our admiration.



To be honest, while I liked Get Out; I felt the premise, set-up, and the middle portion of the film were its true strengths, and that the resolution and ending were far less memorable and impressive. There is a little of that weakness here in Us as well. The last twenty minutes feel rushed, or that Peele wasn’t quite sure where to take the film, until he gives us the great, twisted ending. The jump scares and dark cinematography of the middle portion are so effective and enjoyable, only to falter until that terrific ending. 



Still, two for two from Peele is some achievement. Thanks to the success of Get Out, Peele writes, produces and directs Us, and it’s one of the good instances of giving full creative control to one person. Us is one dark journey into the American Dream; and the evil twin that lurks inside each of us, now given a distinct, physical manifestation.


Photo from @usmovie