Film: “Us”; Director: Jordan Peele; Cast: Lupita Nyongo, Winston Duke, Evan Alex, Shahadi Wright-Joseph, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Anna Diop, Madison Curry, Cali Sheldon; Rating: **
Designed as a horror film with socio-political cum psychological messages, director Jordan Peele’s film, “Us” is an ambitiously crafted film that “makes a statement for the world to see”. While the message is undeniably thoughtful and impressively imaginative, the cinematic statement is jerky, longwinded and messy at times.
The narration opens sometime in 1986, during the, ‘Hands Across America” (Human Chain) movement, where people rallied for Hunger across the continent. We are then transported to Santa Cruz where we are introduced to Adelaide (Madison Curry), a young girl who is about to have a traumatic experience at a beachside amusement park.
Cut to present day, Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) now married to Gabe (Winston Duke) and mother of two teenagers is leading a comfortable life. While planning a vacation, she squirms at Gabe’s suggestion of going to the beach at Santa Cruz along with their son Jason (Evan Alex) and daughter Zora (Shahadi Wright-Joseph). The idea triggers memories that she has been silent about. She reluctantly goes to the vacation. Once there, mysterious forces seem to harm her and her family.
What follows, is a general air of tacky dread when four mysterious assailants trap Adelaide and her family in their house. Each one is the near-identical twin of a family member, though only Adelaide’s doppelganger speaks. In a gasping croak, she identifies herself as Adelaide’s “shadow”, who has lived a life of misery. So the Shadow and her ilk are here to seek justice.
And while Adelaide’s family tries to survive the assault, they realise that this attack is a global phenomenon where the Monstrous beings in red jumpsuits and a single fingerless glove, carrying an extra-large gold scissors are lurking in the shadows.
The premise of the film is about “Us – human beings” living in this Universe, who is the cause of its growth and destruction. It tells us how, “We as human beings can copy the body but not the soul.” And to survive, how one has to fight one’s own shadow especially when the shadows come to haunt you. The shadow here is used as a metaphor for one’s conscience.
While the plot and performances are perfunctory, the fear factor in the film is rather mundane with a few exceptional occasions of thrill. Instances of humour in the film are few and far between and they rob off all the atmosphere and tension out of the way in too many scenes.
The film belongs to Lupita Nyong’o and she delivers a fine act as Adelaide and her shadow. There is a direct contrast: As a mother is paralyzed with her maternal panic and childhood memories and as her Shadow she displays a cold-ruthless and violent existence.
Mounted on moderate production values the film is about average on the technical front.
At the end, the biggest issue is the ambiguous reveal and how it is tethered to the narrative, which overall does not make any sense. It leaves you baffled, deliberating interpretations and occasionally throwing nervous glances to your fellow audience.
Disclaimer: Validity of the above story is for 7 Days from original date of publishing. Source: AFP.