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3 ½ (out of 4)
Where to even begin – Jordan Peele rode the dystopian zeitgeist of our tempestuous times to several accolades with 2017's Get Out, which appropriately repurposed its genre and proved the director a horror film scholar of unrivaled promise. Us is a vastly different stroke of terror and one capable of creating conversations beyond certain political implications – it's spectacularly bizarre by its end and unfailingly suspenseful up front. Peele's sophomore bump is tailored for far more interpretation than the exaggerated racial nightmare parable that is Get Out, though each are authentic enough to prove lasting artifacts of a propitious career.
Especially with the foreknowledge of the simple twist, the profound universality of Us is in trading genetic themes for class ones to make light of our own domestic hypocrisy in the most unthinkably ambitious fashion possible. Peele puts up no barrier between the literal and implicit components of his Twilight Zone-primed phantasm – broken down even by cinematic logic Us doesn’t really make a lick of sense. What really matters is the film has still managed to impress audiences while forcing them into the throws of social speculation, sparking more valuable discourse than any movie this past Oscar season.
It’s very unwise to take Us at face value given all of its symbols, red herrings and metaphorical substance. It’s bug-eyed wacky at its core and the wiliest kind of ingenious on the surface. A movie idea like evil doppelgangers doesn’t even require an explanation and might have even been better for it – it's hard to say whether a freaky, straitlaced thriller from Peele would have made for a more effectively scary film but the unchecked resourcefulness of Us gives way to broad and brawny societal suggestions. Even the most half-baked conceit in this story is drawn from more inspiration than the entire Conjuring universe. Peele is already a savant of his mode, understanding the correct shape and atmosphere a pivotal genre excerpt must possess to retain everlasting value.
Lupita Nyong'o is incredible also, taking the complexities of an absurdly complicated dual role and shining in the ambiguous, uncomfortable strangeness on both accounts. But as cockeyed and batshit crazy as the steady rise to the climax of Us is, it's implications outweigh any grandstanding or Hollywood rug-pulling. We should not take our own national counterparts for granted; every life spent in comfort is karmically leveled by one spent in misfortune. The film's message and exhilaration is overwhelming in total and sure to short circuit any brain that's made a habit of absorbing the content of the latest popular film in one pessimistic sitting. Us is just as insane and brazen as Peele required to reclaim the status as a blossoming auteur of exceptional control. Harebrained as it is, Us is at once audacious as well as calculated and resolute, proving that theatrical ingenuity comes from expanding the possibilities of what the most basic gotcha premise can elicit in either a cinematic or sociological sense.
To keep it brief...
Soon to Come:
The Rise of Skywalker
A Hidden Life
"So what've you been up to?"
"Escaping mostly... and I escape real good."
- Inherent Vice