When we talk about the year 2017 in cinema, one of the first films that will come to mind is undoubtedly “Get Out.” With its modest budget, this film managed to leave people speechless at various festivals, leaving me with a sense of wonder. Despite my initial bias towards films that receive 15 minutes of applause at festivals, “Get Out” truly lived up to its exaggerated success. Directed by Jordan Peele, a writer, director, and comedian, the film garnered such immense popularity that it even became an Oscar nominee. Many of us believed it had a chance to win the award. The original screenplay Oscar rightfully went up in the hands of Jordan Peele. The director, who proved his worth with a single film, announced his next project, “Us,” in May 2018, declaring, “I am here, and I will continue.”
Let’s briefly touch upon the plot… A core family of four plans to go on a vacation to their summer house. However, the mother, Adelaide, is quite uneasy because of an incident from her childhood that she cannot explain, which has made her afraid of the beach. Having experienced lifelong troubles due to what happened in the mirrored house on the beach, she now returns to that very same shore. Despite Adelaide’s tension, the vacation starts off on a fun note but turns into a nightmare when another core family of four arrives at their doorstep. And when I say “another family,” I mean they are the exact duplicates of themselves.
Following the tremendous box office success of “Get Out” on a minuscule budget, it is evident that Jordan Peele’s opportunities have expanded. The cast has also become more diverse. Lupita Nyong’o portrays the mother, while Winston Duke portrays the father. The film also features Anna Diop, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Elisabeth Moss. It is every successful director’s right to access larger budgets and work with more prominent names. However, this has become a significant disadvantage, causing the director to become unsure about what to do with the resources at hand and leading to a dilution of the brilliant idea he initially had.
The family finds themselves facing a sudden and inexplicable situation. Imagine one night you knock on your own door, and another version of yourself answers. But they cannot speak and display aggressive behavior. They are not well-intentioned. They haven’t come to have tea with you; they’ve come to kill you. Jordan Peele starts the film with the famous 1986 advertisement “Hands Across America.” Hundreds of Americans holding hands form a chain that stretches from the west to the east of America, effectively splitting the country in half. The director, from his perspective, brings the dark side of this famous ad to the screen.
He states that America also has a dark side. The shadow that forms when we hold hands and the sun casts its light from behind us—that shadow is us. We are the insincere, dishonest side. Our primal selves. The film doesn’t merely focus on one family; as the minutes pass, it evolves into a major disaster. Director Peele, when he presented this intriguing idea accompanied by Luniz and Michael Marshall’s song “Got 5 on It” in the trailer, I was quite excited about what I was going to see. The trailer presented an exciting concept and a chaotic adventure. However, we soon realized that the film was another clickbait-like trailer. The film is far from the excitement in the trailer. In fact, I couldn’t find the “horror” aspect that Peele particularly emphasized in his interviews. It seemed to be there at the beginning, but then it disappeared.
An idea holds value when it is executed well. Despite being an outrageous concept, “Us” fails to fill in the gaps effectively. The film loses its context at a certain point. The expected action doesn’t materialize, it fails to instill fear, and especially with the increase in jokes, the film loses its purpose. After a while, we want to know where the movie ends and where the result will tie. In fact, the ending is disastrous. Despite the downward spiral, I expected an impactful finale. Jordan Peele chooses to narrate the character’s past in the final moments, taking us by surprise. However, this twist, unfortunately, falls into a logical fallacy. It discards the only strong aspect of the film, the initial tension, and undermines the motivation of the entire movie.
I could praise Lupita Nyong’o’s magnificent acting and the film’s starting point all day long, but unfortunately, I do not harbor positive feelings toward the rest. It fails to scare; instead, it stretches like a piece of gum after a certain point. The explanation given at the film’s beginning actually spoils what will happen in the end, so the final revelation is not surprising at all. The twist at the end undermines the film’s entire meaning and gives rise to numerous logical fallacies.
In essence… Jordan Peele hit the jackpot with his first film, but in the second film, he seems confused due to an abundance of resources. Maybe, it is nothing to do with resources, and he just couldn’t figure out how to bring together a fantastic idea. Apart from successful performances and a promising starting point, the film lacks remarkable aspects. It deviates from being a good horror film and turns into an ordinary popcorn flick. I conclude my disappointing critique by advising against having high expectations and acknowledging that you will be watching a different kind of horror film.
Cast & Crew
director: Jordan Peele
writers: Jordan Peele
starring: Lupita Nyong’o Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, Anna Diop, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II
USA | 2019 | 116 MINUTES |