Jordan Peele, former “MADtv” comedian and co-host of “Key and Peele,” surprised audiences and critics alike in 2017 with his directorial debut “Get Out,” which earned rave reviews and an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
Following up the sleeper hit must have been quite a task, but then Peele released “Us,” his second foray into the horror genre.
Viewers follow a family of four during a beach vacation to Santa Cruz, Calif. Even before the film gets to the action, the audience knows that wife-mother Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) has a past involving a traumatic encounter with a girl who looked exactly like her.
All seems well until they are about to settle in for the night when their son informs them there is a family in their driveway. Soon after they take a look at the visitors, they find themselves fighting for their lives from menacing look-alikes, all wearing red jumpsuits and wielding gold scissors.
Dictionary.com defines the word doppelgänger as: “a ghostly double or counterpart of a living person.” Encountering such “persons” has made for creative, often thrilling storytelling as with 2013’s “Enemy” with Jake Gyllenhaal or 1970’s “The Man Who Haunted Himself” with Roger Moore.
In a recent Rolling Stone magazine interview, Peele said he was inspired by “The Twilight Zone” episode “Mirror Image” in which Vera Miles portrayed a woman who became convinced that a doppelgänger she encountered was on a mission to kill her and take her place. In fact, Peele is one of the producers and narrates a revival of the series, set at press time to premiere April 1 on the CBS All Access on-demand channel.
A group of highly talented performers make up the cast of “Us,” headed up by Nyong’o who gives a remarkable dual performance. This role adds to her already astonishing body of work that includes an Academy Award-winning supporting performance in “12 Years a Slave” (2013), as well as her scene-stealing Maz Kanata in the recent “Star Wars” trilogy. Rising star Winston Duke (M’Baku in Marvel’s “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Infinity War”) plays her husband Gabriel Duke, and is often the comic relief, which Peele effectively uses throughout as he did with “Get Out.”
Rounding out the main cast are Shahadi Wright Joseph as daughter Zora, the constantly on-the-phone type, and Evan Alex as Jason. He’s the quirky son who has the task of having to grow up instantly while he and his family are in jeopardy.
Peele has proven, with two films as a director, to be one of the most exciting, visionary filmmakers in recent years. While this film may not be completely on par with his first, it still makes for great viewing and leaves movie lovers like me wondering what he’ll create next.