Sunday 28 April 2019

Us by Jordan Peele

Us is the innocent sounding title for the new film by Jordan Peele, the genius (I don't think that's too strong a word) who brought us the astonishing Get Out.

Get Out was a razor sharp thriller which trod the borderline between acute social commentary and science fiction. It was reminiscent of John Frankenheimer's Seconds, although it was more darkly funny and more deeply satirical.

For me, the one flaw with Get Out was its more blatant 'genre' aspects — the rather outrageous science fiction/fantasy/horror plot elements. Its greatest strength was its critique on race in America.

Well, Peele's new film doesn't have much at all to say specifically about race in America (although it made a fascinating double feature the same day I saw it with Green Book), whereas it moves explicitly and emphatically into the genre zone.

In other words, the new film emphasises what I regarded as the weaknesses of Get Out and discards the strengths. So you might think I didn't like it. But I loved it.

Us is a remarkable and disturbing movie which will grip you from the very opening scenes where a little girl gets lost at a fun fair, and you expect the most horrific consequences — and you're right, but not in any way you could imagine.

Peele is uniquely talented. Once again, the brilliant precision of his film-making combined with the audacious strangeness reminded me of Roman Polanski.

I don't want to give too much away about the movie — just allow me to urge you to see it — but I will say that it plays with notions of symmetry and duality and concurrence. 

There is a recurring motif of a biblical quotation, Jeremiah 11:11 and at one point a digital clock radio reads 11:11. Seeing the film a second time (how appropriate) I began to notice how subtly Peele has woven this theme in — in the background we hear about a baseball game tied 11:11.

But never mind the subtleties, let's talk about the overt aspects of the film. Us is both laugh-out-loud funny, in a very dark way ("I've got the highest kill count in the family") and utterly terrifying — both by means of physical brutality and psychological creepiness. 

And the performances are astounding — particularly Lupita Nyong'o. Since I'm not going to give too much away, you'll have to go to the movie to see what I mean.

Also deserving mention is the luminous photography of Mike Gioulakis, the hellishly unsettling music score by Michael Abels, and a very strange guest appearance by a whole bunch of white rabbits.

(Image credits: six posters from Imp Awards. The one with the three faces is from Notre Cinema. The disturbing image of the distorted face little girl is by Scott Saslow and is a fan art poster from Indie Wire. The Rorschach-looking grey one is again a fan poster, this one by Alex Lanier and is also from Indie Wire.)

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