Jordan Peele directs Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke and Elisabeth Moss in this horror satire where a family find themselves pursued by warped look-a-likes of themselves: The Tethered.
“What has 12 million eyes, 50 million fingers and stretches all the way from the Statue of Liberty to the Pacific Ocean?” We open on a terrifying question one that is answered twice in Jordan Peele’s Us. The period setting advert we are watching on the fade-in is for the mid 80s charity / promo event Hands Across America, a PR stunt to raise money for the richest nation in the world’s poor. The second answer is drip-fed to us throughout the film. A baffling, awe inspiring, satirically loaded answer that conjures up tantalising further questions and consistent threat and peril. For the monsters in Us are explored but never fully explained, looked at in detail but never neutered or demystified by the spotlight. They say “We’re Americans”, Peele lets us glimpse a hidden, less valued society. It is not giving anything away to say they are the true embodiment of an underclass. Aping the lifestyles of the wealthy, a way of living they can only access if they violently take it back. There are slavery references jotted about the film; underground tunnels, prominent books on intellectual shelves, workers uniforms. America is built on the sweat of the less fortunate, all countries are. Peele imagines what would happen if this violent shadow class took over from the elite, a reparations uprising more organised and marshalled than Watts riots or LA’92. He even winkingly depicts the surviving protagonists, “the good family”, slowly acquiring their slightly richer, white friends’ wealth… by the end the likeable, convincing Wilsons have sat at the Tyler’s dining table, been in their jealousy inducing boat and escaped in their new car… all upgrades from how they started. I’ve read a lot of impatient reviewers say Us isn’t as politically astute or motivated as Get Out which wore its racial arguments more obviously. I think Us is the fuller, more denser allegory. But here’s the best thing… it can be taken completely straight faced as a pure piece of genre entertainment. The thrills and set pieces are clenched and playful, violent and unnerving. There are at least a dozen simple yet impressive iconic moments. Get ready for a Halloween of Red Boilersuits and Brass Scissors… there were already a few kids Tethered up at Comicon this month. Marvel at the final dancing battle of the duelling N’Yongos. Watch as the brilliant Lupita (affecting in both roles) breaks the horror genre curse and gets nominated for acting Oscars next year. Prepare for every version of Luniz half-forgotten ominous banger “I Got 5 On It” to become a household favourite this summer. My one criticism of Get Out always was the intelligent horror and the broad comedy didn’t blend particularly well, here Peele modulates his two preferred genres better… you’ll be gripped, you’ll be shocked and you will laugh. The flare gun pay off in particular is a highlight and the mark of a true entertainer. Hitch and Spielberg would be proud. They’d be proud of all of this… the visual confidence, the perfectly paced cliffhangers. Our local multiplex is being refurbed, so daytime showings vanished for this after the first weekend. I kinda held off reviewing it before a second watch. That probably won’t happen now but the below score of 8 could easily rise once I can repeat view it at home. Us is a bit special, the Tethered have boiled away in my brain since opening night.
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