Review – Us
I found this movie pretty frustrating, because while it is good, it’s not great and there are so many issues holding it back. There are two basic things this movie is missing: restraint and trust in the audience.
It feels like Peele put every cool shot he could think of in the movie, without regard to whether that shot actually enhanced the mood of the scene or not. It’s an exercise in showing off and while the shots do indeed look cool, they’re often distracting and undercut whatever tension the movie was trying to establish. And that extends beyond just the visuals into the script as well.
This movie spends way too much time explaining itself. And getting into the not trusting the audience part of this, nothing can be explained that can’t be explained again. The movie constantly doubles down on pointing out what it’s doing to point it out again. It’s both a little much and completely undermines the horror of the film. Everything that’s supposed to be scary here becomes overly familiar by the end, robbing the movie of the power it might’ve had.
One of the first things our primary antagonist does is give a lengthy James Bond villain speech about what they’re doing and why. It’s just a weird choice to demystify the horror so early on; particularly when we’re going to get that same speech twice more with some more specifics each time. The movie basically declaws itself before it even gets going.
It’s doesn’t help that this movie also builds to a twist that I saw through before we even meet our main cast. And frankly I think the movie could have been much more interesting if it had been more upfront with that twist and treated it as a part of the main text of the film rather than something that’s meant to make you rethink the whole movie at the very end.
A lot of this just feels like a cynical play to entice obsessive fans. And exercise in building iconography and lore. Which I would 100% be fine with if the emotional core of the film were sound, but it isn’t, and that stuff getting in the way is the reason why. This is not a problem Get Out had, as much as it also became a meme, the sunken place was an very emotionally resonant idea.
It’s also frustrating because this idea of Doppelgangers is not particularly new and I’ve seen it executed better in recent films. The climax of last year’s Annihilation and a more obscure horror movie, +1. Both of these movies build much more to the confrontation between self and Doppelganger and both confrontations are film moments that stick with me much more powerfully than anything in Us will. +1 is a striking comparison because the filmmaking in general is much less impressive than in Us, Peele is working with more skill, more tools. But when the rubber hits the road and it’s just the time for the horror of this idea, +1 delivers a frankly Us does not.
Get Out was striking because of how well structured it was. That Peele’s understanding of comedy helped him deliver on the punchline that a good horror story needs. In Us the final image gets made fun of by a character in the movie. It’s like he understood it didn’t work but was still married to it.
A lot of the humor here, though not dissimilar to the humor in Get Out, doesn’t work in the film because the structure is such a mess. You can’t really cut the tension when it hasn’t been properly established.
That all being said, I actually still liked Us. It’s no Get Out and I think Peele himself kinda fucked up here, as talented as he is, but much is forgiven because Lupita Nyong’o is so good.
It’s just a goddamn pleasure to spend a movie with her. She’s a bonafide movie star, where just her presence onscreen carries the entire movie regardless of everything else. She’s fucking great and she saves this entire movie.
This is still a frustrating film for me because of all the issues I mentioned. I think some harsh editing, tearing out the redundant bits and stuff that didn’t work could have made this actually a great movie instead of just a good one.
Thank You For Your Time.