Us is the best film to hit theaters so far this year, but even with the stretch of months coming and the huge list of blockbusters set for release—this movie will find its way onto multiple top ten lists at the end of the year.
The movie revolves around the chilling tale of the Wilson family, a family of four, who during a family trip find a group of scissor-wielding-home-invaders at their doorstep. The scariest part, however, is that the invaders look exactly like them.
One of the marvels that Us provides is the performance from Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o. She, like the other main characters in the movie, has to play dual roles. She plays the movie’s protagonist, Adelaide, and also the movie’s antagonist, Red. Even as the two go face-to-face in a bloody fight towards the picture’s climax, it’s easy to forget Nyong’o is playing both roles.
The two—Red and Wilson—obviously look identical (besides a few subtleties), but their characteristics are vastly different. So much so, that it feels like the two roles are played by different actors. It’s not an easy feat for an actor to disappear into a role, let alone when an actor plays opposite to themselves.
Nyong’o’s performance is also key in Peele communicating the majority of the themes found in Us. First, and the most obvious theme, is the idea that people are their own worst enemy. While the plot alone can illustrate this message—the conflicting personalities of Nyong’o’s roles bring it to light in a more well-rounded fashion.
Us also reminds that the world that it is unlikely an alien invasion or zombie apocalypse will be the downfall of humanity—it will more than likely be us, humanity itself. Peele doesn’t stop there, and that won’t surprise anyone who saw his 2017 film Get Out. Like his debut feature, there are tons of “Easter eggs” (hints semi-hidden throughout the film) that double as information, callbacks, or even jokes that further all of these themes.
Above all else, the amount of depth found in Us reflects the talent of its creator. It feels as if there is nothing by accident in the film. Every shot, every camera angle, every clothing choice, every note of music (coming from the movie’s phenomenal score) all feels calculated; it’s all intentional. Peele knew what he wanted and how to make it. His work reflects the work of the great directors of all-time such as Martin Scorsese, Stanley Kubrick, and Spike Lee. So, it’s no surprise his name is being thrown around with all the greats.
Now, another aspect of Us that makes it extraordinarily different is that one viewing is just not enough. Sure, the audience can go and enjoy the new movie this weekend, but that one viewing only allows them to experience the movie’s surface (which isn’t shallow either). In the final act of Us, there is a twist that is revealed, and it completely changes how viewers perceive the movie. Watching it for a second viewing allows the audience to see the film from a completely new perspective—almost an entirely different movie.
In most cases of the Hollywood twists, the ending is revealed and the story ends with a shock. However, not many actually reward audience members for going back and watching again. For example, most thrillers use the twist-ending to reveal the killer—it wasn’t the suspect, it was the innocent victim that audiences never suspected.
But, Peele’s thought process is way ahead of this. Peele doesn’t want just a shock-factor, he instead creates a more complex story, invoking more emotions and questions about our main characters. It raises questions and dares the audience to look deeper into the world that he created. It’s examples like this that have earned Peele the title “The New Master of Suspense.”
While it’s arguably too early in Peele’s career to call him the next Hitchcock, if he continues to perform and produce content at this level—he’ll be the director film students will study in 20 or 30 years. His name will share the likes of the masters that came before him, such as Hitchcock or Stanley Kubrick.
Simply put, Us is not just a masterfully directed horror movie, it’s not just a thematically deep character study, and it is sure as hell not just a fun time at the movies—it’s a movie that will stand the test of time and will be cherished for years to come.