Us film review: director Jordan Peele a true screen artist

Lupita Nyong'o, Evan Alex and Shahadi Wright Joseph.
Lupita Nyong'o, Evan Alex and Shahadi Wright Joseph.

CRITICAL consensus about a film usually boils down to ‘them and us’ and on Jordan Peele’s Us I’m in the ‘them’ camp.

Peele’s uber hit Get Out certainly created the expectation of something powerful and transformative with his next feature.

Get Out was a nifty, stylish, scary take on race and its psychological fallout.

Us certainly looks the part for the movie you make after you’ve struck gold, though the modest $20 million budget for the film belies its magnificent sheen.

It’s gorgeous, sumptuous and mostly remarkably bright, even in its darkest moments.

It turns predominant horror tropes on their head by taking its anxieties decisively out of the shadows and anxieties it has aplenty, too many to mention.

On this basis alone, it will become a cult classic beyond any current reckoning of its artistic merits. There is much to dissemble here.

A powerful introductory narrative sets up the psychopathic journey.

A young girl at a beachside attraction on the Northern California coastline finds her way to a house of mirrors after being left with her tipsy dad for a few minutes.

She gets much more than she bargains for. There’s a girl there; it’s her but not her. It’s a meeting of the self that shapes the rest of her life.

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Lupita Nyong’o.

Now a mother, Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o) returns to the area with husband Gabe (Winston Duke) and their two children, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex), for a summer break.

Gabe is ecstatic, the children are suitably apathetic, Adelaide is wary with a tinge of hysteria, her paranoia not helped by a series of coincidences with echoes of that buried past.

Gabe convinces her just to get through the day after Adelaide pleads to go home.

It’s a stereotypically bland but idyllic day with friends Kitty and Josh Tyler (Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker) and their twin daughters, though Kitty is heavy on the grape juice.

Adelaide is now back in the place where all her problems started. Then Jason goes missing.

If all this is bad, the night will bring that confrontation with their doppelgangers, and a terrifying home invasion.

If one thing is clear, Peele will be confronting audiences with his complicated, unsettling visions for quite some time.

There are no half measures; a marvellous premise has been taken to extreme conclusions.

Look too long into a house of mirrors and you don’t know who or what you’re looking at.

The metaphor is a little too apt here; I was often just slightly confused, but I won’t quickly forget some of these tableaux.

Peele is that very rare thing: a true screen artist. Just look at Us.

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THE ESSENTIALS

Us (MA15+)

Directed by: Jordan Peele

Starring: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker

3.5 Stars

Reviewed by: Martin Turner

In cinemas now