US (2019)

US (4)

  • Release Date: 29/03/2019
  • Cast: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex
  • Director: Jordan Peele

Us begins with introducing us to a young Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o) who walks into a beachside attraction to come face to face with an entity that is her doppelganger. When her parents find her – after 15 minutes of disappearance — she is diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. We zip ahead in time and find Adelaide to be happily married with two children. Her husband takes the family on a getaway to the same place where the fateful incident from Adelaide’s past took place. Their house, even though is away from the beach, Adelaide starts having strange feelings about the place.

Her husband is oblivious to her past until she confides in him one night. On that very fateful night, Adelaide’s family is visited by the doppelgangers of all the members of her family who interestingly form a family of their own. These doppelgangers, all dressed in red and having golden scissors for weapons start tormenting the family. After a lot of struggle, the family escapes the house and runs into the city in the middle of the night only to realize that their nightmares have just begun.

US (1)

I walked into this film with a lot of hope. Jordan Peele’s previous film, Get Out, was brilliant. It even won an Oscar for best original screenplay. The hype surrounding “Us” was no less. Not only were people interested to see how Peele would top his achievements after Get Out, there were a lot of critics and fans who were going all gaga about this film and its freshness. After watching this film, all I can say is that I am not convinced by what I saw and I was left unsatisfied in the end. The film does have its share of pros but there is a lot about it that is just left unanswered and unaccounted for which really made me question its purpose.

First and foremost, “Us” has been marketed as a horror film and it is anything but that. There wasn’t a single sequence wherein I was scared or even marginally jolted. I am not a fan of the jump scares and have a very refined taste for what I call aesthetic horror. “Us” is a thriller that borders on being horror but there is nothing about it that would scare you. That was my first issue with the film as I walked into it expecting a horror film and was let down.

The story sets up interestingly. The manner in which the screenplay builds up ensures that we are hooked. The fact that each of the performances is in strong keeping with the feel and intrigue of the film makes the proceedings that much more effective. Lupita Nyong’o delivers a terrific essay as she plays both versions of herself with clinical ease and searing effect. It was more difficult to play the doppelganger version as it was different from her in every way but Nyong’o pulls it off with such elan that both the versions feel like different characters.

US (5)

She shares wonderful chemistry with Winston Duke who plays her husband and it really helps certain scenes to click. When her children are threatened we get to see her true rage which was very well enacted. I also loved the way she gets even with her doppelganger version in the end. That was one of the most physical scenes of the film. The doppelganger version of her speaks in a tone that is bound to get under your skin. That was another aspect very well done about the character.  Winston Duke apart from running around confused and killing all that threatens his family does a lot of situational comedy which doesn’t exactly help the film’s cause. But it is amusing in certain portions.

“Us” has a lot of edge-of-the-seat moments. Once the attack begins, the director successfully plays with our minds using both old and new tricks in the book to instill fear in our hearts. Since we care for the Wilson family we are even more engrossed in the proceedings. The action and the violence—of which there is a lot—feel on your face and real. There is a lot of hand-to-hand combat and most of it is proficiently done. The doppelgangers don’t just kill the Wilson family. Instead, they decide to have a little fun with their respective counterparts. This leads to some very interesting clashes. My favorite of the lot was the one-on-one between Adelaide’s kid son and his brutish doppelganger. The manner in which the doppelganger of Adelaide’s daughter is packed off would come as a shock to many. It borders on being at par with how Hollywood is known to dispose of zombies.

For a large portion of the film, we are unaware of who the doppelgangers are and where did they come from and how is Adelaide’s past related to it. But the moment the film reveals its cards is when the floodgates to the questions open and it has not a single convincing answer to those. Everything we have been thinking about all this while is chucked out of the windows and we are presented with a specific story as to where and why the doppelgangers attacked the Wilson family and why they might not be the only family under attack. I was so engrossed in the tale up till that point that the shortcomings germinating out of the lack of answers were even more annoying.

US (3)

Jordan Peele took an impossible plot point in “Get Out” and successfully turned it into a believable and affecting film. He could have easily thought out “Us” better. After watching the film, I scoured the World Wide Web looking for things that I might have missed as I strongly felt that Mr. Peele couldn’t go so wrong but there was nothing that could answer my questions about the plot holes. I am ok with a film that leaves an open or even ambiguous end but when you are telling people specifically what the plot is, you cannot leave gaping holes about it and that’s exactly what the problem is with this film.

Another issue that I had with the film was the amount of ease that the characters displayed in the face of such utter chaos. Apart from Lupita Nyong’o who occasionally looks spooked out, none of the other characters seem perturbed. Instead, they seem to be finding irony in their condition and be in the right minds to crack fun about it. There are a lot of cultural references and nuances to the film that many sight as a redeeming factor – Jeremiah 11.11, hands across nation campaign, rabbits, America’s underground tunnel system – but with such utter lack of answers to burning questions that liquidates the whole plot, the metaphors don’t account for much.

Overall, “Us” is a great thriller right up till the point, the plot is revealed. It is well acted and has some nerve-wracking moments but is not a horror film. I was disappointed by it primarily because of the plot holes and the amount of talent involved in it and how little that accounted for by the end.

Rating: 2.5/5 (2.5 out of 5 Stars)

   

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