“Us” review: a brilliant return from Jordan Peele

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“Us” review: a brilliant return from Jordan Peele

Jordan Peele's thriller

Jordan Peele's thriller "Us" has already brought in $7.4 million on the first day of it's release.

Jordan Peele's thriller "Us" has already brought in $7.4 million on the first day of it's release.

Jordan Peele's thriller "Us" has already brought in $7.4 million on the first day of it's release.

Trey McCabe, Memorial Staff Writer

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With the unprecedented success of Jordan Peele’s directorial debut Get Out, which made waves with both critics and audiences for its thoughtful and timely approach to horror, expectations ran high for his second feature. Fortunately, Peele has met and exceeded those expectations with the absolutely spectacular horror film Us, in which sinister doppelgangers of the Wilson family begin to terrorize them while on vacation.

Think of a good quality from Get Out, any quality at all. If you magnify that quality by a power of ten, that comes pretty close to the improvement Us represents for Peele as a filmmaker. Somehow, it is a funnier, scarier and more thoughtful than his debut, no small feat for a director already as well-regarded as Peele.

Utilizing his simple but fascinating conceit, Peele crafts the perfect horror world, the sort that, despite its absurdity, feels wholly real, possessing just enough detail to seem lived in but little enough to create palpable mystery. This effort is in no small part aided by his main cast in the Wilson family, who give their characters both groundedness and brevity.

While Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex are exceptional as the children Zora and Jason, and Winston Duke is alternately hilarious and touching as their father Gabe, it is Lupita Nyong’o who truly shines in this film as Adelaide Wilson, a woman still haunted by seeing her doppelganger at a young age. At first the only one to recognize the gravity of their situation, she moves through her fear into a place of raw determination to protect her children. To call her dynamic compelling would be an understatement.

Bolstered by the phenomenal performances, these characters stand out amongst the archetypical horror victims in one key aspect: their intelligence. Rather than draft characters who make questionable decisions in the midst of unforseen terrors, Peele has opted to make them as quick-witted as possible, as they cleverly respond as best they can in violent situations. While many horror films can and do manifest the pathos of stupidity to believable effect, Us excels where they do not, providing the audience with a perfectly balanced mixture of success and defeat for its protagonists.

In addition, this approach heightens the catharsis of the third act climax in that it fleshes out the characters’ tribulations to such a degree that the audience more closely identifies with their emotions than they might have otherwise. They have been through the narrative wringer, exhausted but determined, and so are we. Paired with the brilliantly edited action Peele puts on display here, Us is nearly guaranteed to satisfy by the time the credits roll.

Contact writer Trey McCabe at [email protected]

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