REVIEW: ‘Us’ provides the thrills but is undercut by consistency issues

“Us,” definitely not to be confused with the drama show “This is Us,” is the latest picture from Writer/Director Jordan Peele.

The film tells the story of Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o), who’s visiting a beach vacation home with her family, which includes her husband Gabe (Winston Duke), daughter Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and son Jason (Evan Alex).

While Adelaide is has some reservations about being in the area again because of some bad memories from her past, she tries to make the most of her vacation with her family. Things seem to be going OK until night falls and the family is confronted in their vacation home by a group of doppelgangers.

In terms of concepts for movies, Peele’s track record, although short, remains solid. Like his previous film “Get Out,” Peele’s “Us” plays with a some very interesting ideas and expresses them using the format of a thriller with a dash of science fiction.

The movie introduces these ideas through its various twists and turns, which are set up with nice pacing and a good enough narrative structure overall.

The movie’s biggest strength, though, is its subtext, which becomes more and more interesting as the film goes on. Metaphorically, “Us” is on point. Like “Get Out,” the film doesn’t go out of its way to bash an audience over the head with a message, but rather unravels concepts, whether they be via sci-fi or horror portrayals, which mirror the real world we live in.

Us
Actress Lupita Nyong’o in “Us.” Courtesy Blumhouse Productions.

Both scary moments and even a few sequences of dark comedy are used in constructing a case about aspects of society, with some providing more impact than others. As a whole, the film is able to tap into a person’s inquisitive nature about how what’s happening on screen relates to real issues, such as differences in wealth class.

However, for as solid as that part of the film is, “Us” does stumble because of the execution in providing a background for the horror/thriller elements. Despite having strength from a metaphorical standpoint, the film is undercut by a lack of internal consistency and several logical issues, especially in the picture’s second half.

Another issue “Us” runs into are some moments of abrupt shifts in tone, usually when it came to the movie’s humor. In a few instances the film’s tension is tripped by some unnecessary comedic attempts which felt somewhat out of place. Additionally, while suspenseful, the movie rarely reaches frightening levels.

Thankfully, the picture is aided by strong performances across the board. This is especially true considering basically every actor portrays another version of themselves.

This is most true for Nyong’o, who’s required to give the most layered performance and she knocks it out of the park. When she’s playing her darker self, she’s is menacing and intimidating. At the same time, she is a convincing, strong protagonist when portraying her character’s good counterpart.

The picture is also well crafted, helmed by Peele who’s proven himself to be a fine director and shot by Mike Giolakis, who does fantastic cinematography work here.

“Us” isn’t on the level of “Get Out,” but Peele’s filmography remains strong overall with a serviceable entry. The movie has a lot going for it metaphorically and is put together nicely by a talented crew and good performances from the cast. Yet tonal problems and issues with the logic undercut the movie, especially in the third act. 3.4 out of 5.

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Author: Matthew Liedke

I'm a reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer in Minnesota, and I also have a passion for the art of film. This passion led me to start writing about film in 2008. From 2008-2016 I wrote pieces at my own website, After the Movie Reviews. Then, from 2016-May 2018, my write-ups were featured on AreaVoices, a blog network run by Forum Communications Company. Today, I write film reviews and other pieces here on Word Press. More about me: I'm a 2009 graduate of Rainy River College and a 2012 graduate of Minnesota State University in Moorhead. At MSU, I studied journalism and film. Outside of movies, I enjoy sports, video games, anime and craft beers.

2 thoughts on “REVIEW: ‘Us’ provides the thrills but is undercut by consistency issues”

    1. Thanks Dan. I enjoyed Get Out more, but I really like Peele’s efforts in the genre. This has been a really nice string of movies in general for horror/thriller with Get Out, A Quiet Place, Hereditary and Us being consistently above average.

      Like

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