Film Review – US (2019)

Writer/Director Jordan Peele’s directorial debut Get Out, a ferocious, smart and regularly amusing satirical horror was so wildly successful it saw him garner the kind of kudos and generate the amount of buzz not lightly granted by both critics and the general public. So astutely on the pulse was it, you almost feel a tinge of sympathy among the excitement as his next movie drops. Having set the bar at such a lofty height, surely he’d set himself up for a fall of sorts; a repeat would be so difficult to achieve, such would be the expectation from a blossoming and eager fanbase.

Turns out there never really was any cause for concern, though. Peele’s second stab at directing is a jarring and creepy home invasion movie. A mysterious and raucous ride that, while perhaps missing the obvious satirical bite of Get Out, is nevertheless an intriguing, zeitgeist-shaping watch.

In 1986 a young Adelaide Thomas wanders away from her parents on the boardwalk at Santa Cruz beach. Walking into a hall of mirrors she has a terrifying encounter with a vision of herself. Thirty-odd years later and adult Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) returns to her parents’ beach house with her husband Gabe (Winston Duke) and their kids having never spoken of the memory. She fears that the past is going to catch up with her, though, and, lo and behold, things take a turn for the worst when a doppelganger family arrives and invades the home armed with scissors and with apparently murderous intentions.

To speak much more of the plot is probably to let too much daylight in upon the magic. It’s a ferocious horror, but also one that spotlights the sense of humour on which Peele has built much of his career. It seems to ask plenty of questions and provides little in the way of easy answers. A semi-cryptic title that could suggest that our biggest enemies may, ultimately, be ourselves. Or perhaps it’s to be read with a capital S as well as U. “We’re Americans” croaks Adelaide’s doppelganger when pressed to identify herself and her family of boiler suit-wearing party crashers.

An ensemble piece, but one that is nevertheless dominated by a mesmerising Nyong’o in dual lead roles: tortured and desperate as confused and terrified Adelaide and, as her mirror image Red, equally tortured and sporting a spasmodic voice.

The grinding torture is punctuated by dabbles of deadpan humour that might threaten to sink a less robust film, but provide nice counterpoints to the sadism, with Winston Duke particularly funny as an articulate and still heroic-when-pushed dad. There’s great use of music too including an overwhelming orchestral version of I Got 5 on It by Luniz and amusing appearances by Beach Boys and NWA.

It might mean all things to all people and is undoubtedly a movie that demands repeat viewing. It seems to loses itself down a narrative rabbit hole of sorts in the the closing twenty minutes and perhaps it’s reaching too far late on, but it doesn’t stop it taking your breath away.

Chris Banks | [rating=4]

Horror, Thriller | USA, 2019 | 15 | Blu-Ray, DVD, 4K HD| 29th July 2019 (UK) | Universal Pictures | Dir.Jordan Peele | Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Alex Evan, Madison Curry

Originally posted for Cinema Release on 22nd March 2019

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