Movie Review: Us
What does Us try to say to its audience? As clear as the themes are within this and Jordan Peele’s previous efforts in Get Out, the immediate problem is effectiveness and quality. Attempting to net and handle the duality that rages inside, apparently, every human being on this wretched Earth, Us provides a simplified metaphor for letting the animal within outside into the fresh, inviting air. A film that showcases it is never a necessity to follow primal instincts, for should we do so society would collapse in on itself, an inevitable by-product of faux appearances and a shielding of oneself is mutually agreed upon by Peele and Peele alone.
He cares not for the audience or their perspective, and does little to convince those of a different opinion or train of thought. No matter the great strides he makes in casting great actors in strong roles, (Lupita Nyong’o in particular is a starkly great lead) Peele fails to connect strong performances with interesting themes. Unfortunately, the hard part of this battle is won swiftly, indicated by the surprising quality found in Tim Heidecker or Elisabeth Moss’ supporting roles, or the necessary man-of-the-house breakdown Winston Duke provides. These are good actors stuck in bad thematics, and it pumps the brakes on anything they wish to identify or symbolise. No fault of their own, though, this is an issue Peele has grappled with before. He may have, if bleak and poor-quality memory serves me correct, won the first battle, but his second round sees him knocked out by his own inability to move his focus to interesting concepts.
At its core, Us is a horror film. It must succeed in its very foundations. There must be strong moments of tension that will stick with the audience. It is only then, when an audience is hooked, can a film begin to even build on the spectacles it wishes to display in its written craft. Us does not quite scare or instil dread or fear. With one step forward comes two steps back. Good performances are crushed by a director so set on featuring concepts and ideas that do not have the written strength to feature so prominently.
Jordan Peele, the modern hero of horror. His comparisons to Hitchcock are confusing, the two share little in common. Get Out coerced a message out of a solid story and segments of great horror. Or rather, what little I remember of it, I remember being solid enough not to slander and mock it. Us tries to do the same but with far less style and influence. Us feels far too broad a concept and on the nose with its underlying subtext to actually work as something that elicits fear or fright from its viewers. While it is so focused on what the characters represent, it is as if Peele looks past the performer, hoping to find something that they represent, when, unfortunately, all they represent is a quality performance. That does not fit the bill for Peele’s approach, and Us will serve as an example of a film wrote to highlight a message, rather than a natural message coming out of fine writing.