Here are 6 Reasons Why Jordan Peele’s Us Is a Near-Flawless Film
We've got five (stars) on it.
Us is brilliant. Frightening in some parts, funny in others, and altogether a cinematic experience, Jordan Peele has proven that no one should have worried he’d hit a sophomore slump. Instead, he’s given us a nightmarishly intriguing film that begs conversation and analysis. It’s damn good filmmaking too. We broke down 6 reasons why Us is nearly flawless, because quite frankly, Peele and his cast probably started the Oscars 2020 conversation with this film.
I tried to avoid spoilers, but mild spoilers will follow so read this after you’ve seen the film.
- Lupita Nyong’o’s Oscar-Worthy Turn
To not mention Nyong’o’s work as its own, separate reason for this film being amazing would be a cardinal sin. Nyong’o, who won the Oscar for 12 Years a Slave in 2013, has done stage work and given strong supporting turns in other films, but this is her first cinematic leading role. The Oscars might look down their nose at horror films but to ignore her work as both caring mother turned horror queen Adelaide and as terrifying Red would be a crime.
Without Nyong’o as the central characters, we would not have the film period. Nyong’o delivers grit and determination and terror as Adelaide and then immediately switches to Red’s creepy voice and perfect, controlled physicality. It’s a masterclass. People will talk about her work for years to come, and I’m not being hyperbolic here. It’s an incredible turn that merits a second Oscar, this time for Best Actress. Nyong’o shows a mastery both of emotional work and physical performance. I doubt much else this year will come close to it.
- The Entire Ensemble
Nyong’o gives an incredible turn, but she’s not the only star of the film. Winston Duke, Shahidi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex, Elisabeth Moss … There is not a single bad actor in the bunch. Duke in particular shows his range as both the funny, charming patriarch of the Wilson family, showcasing the same timing that made his Black Panther character M’Baku stand out while also never winking at the camera when it comes to how dorky his character can be. As his Tethered opposite, Abraham, he’s a frightening figure. Moss, ever reliable, is both funny as somewhat vapid Kitty and frightening as her counterpart.
But the child actors are the breakouts of the film. Wright Joseph is natural and effortless, and her Tethered turn is frightening and a bit of a show stealer. Alex, as her nervous younger brother, gives his regular counterpart heart, but his turn as Pluto, his opposite, shows his range as an actor. Seriously, these kids are stars. Give the entire cast the SAG award for Best Ensemble already, because the work they do is extraordinary.
- Flawless Visuals and Direction
Cinematography is more than sweeping landscape shots, and the cinematography of Us proves that you don’t need to be show-y to have brilliant visuals. Peele and cinematographer Mike Gioulakis relish in mirrors and reflections to drive home the seeing double themes, and set up shots with a master’s knowledge of how to terrify the audience. The camerawork highlights performances too, and doesn’t distract from the story at hand. There’s no shaky cam, just good old fashioned visuals. Gioulakis, who also was the cinematographer for It Follows, is a master of horror. And it goes without saying that Peele needs another Best Director nomination too.
- That Spine-Chilling Score
The opening credits of Us are set to one of the most frightening opening themes I’ve heard, period. Michael Abels, the composer who also crafted Get Out‘s chilling score, returns to terrify audiences with his latest nightmare. The music is haunting, yet never distracting. It crawls under your skin without being jarring or distracting you from what’s happening on screen; it’s complimentary rather than clashing. I hope Abels scores (pun intended) an Oscar nomination for his work here.
- Easter Eggs Galore
Visual cues from The Shining. The family watching the news in a scene right out of Night of the Living Dead. Peele loves horror, and you can tell based on the Easter Eggs he sprinkles throughout the film. Keep an eye out for those excellent callbacks as Peele makes his mark on the genre for a second time with yet another smash hit, as each callback is a reminder that no one should doubt Peele’s commitment to the genre.
- A Bold, Exciting Script
The script is going to be hit or miss for some audiences, but for me, it stole the show. It’s funny without being corny or cliche, and is genuinely terrifying at other parts. Peele doesn’t spell out what the film thematically is about, and instead invites different interpretations. Is it a commentary on class, on America’s own dark past, or on mental illness? This film begs post-movie conversations and lengthy Twitter threads. While the boldness of some of the twists might not be universally loved, but Peele’s daring deserves all the respect in the world. He challenges the audience, rather than let them get too comfortable, which is the mark of some truly smart writing.
What was your favorite part of Us?
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