Us

* * * 1/2

Jordan Peele’s follow-up to Get Out is jam packed full of (mainly other horror) movie references, superb visuals, and ideas. It also features a very long, generally wordless second act that is not particularly scary and not particularly thrilling. Where the film packs its punches are in its truly fascinating third act and in your brain afterwards (or in spirited discussion with others). It is, perhaps, more enjoyable to think about than watch.

A family at their vacation home finds their peace threatened; as they struggle to survive and understand the nature of the threat facing them, they, and we, learn of a significant evil. To say any more would not be fair; see it for yourself, if not because it’s so surprising, but because the whole thing is a big trick – a pretty good one – and Peele, not I nor any other critic you may read on this film, is the magician.

Peele’s going for a bigger target with this picture than he did with Get Out, and after sitting with the film a little, his audacity and ambition become clear, and admirable. But the experience of watching the film is frequently frustrating; as that long second act drags on, you’ve every right to wonder not only what is going on, but if this is all there is. It’s not, there’s more, but you’ve got to sit still and be patient to get there.

GET OUT

Get-Out-movie-song

**** (out of five)

Jordan Peele’s debut as a feature film writer/director announces him as a major talent with a big, big career ahead. Get Out is fabulous, a film that not only continually gets better as it goes along, but keeps getting better the more you think about it afterwards. It’s one of those films where the third act completely revolutionises your perceptions of the first, therefore completely justifying a second viewing. I can’t wait.

A horror film without gore or jump-scares, a treatise on casual racism in America without being didactic or pointedly accusatory, and an intelligent and intense social satire without – or with very few – “jokes”, it feels closest in our immediate culture to an excellent American episode of Black Mirror, with a very American theme. Genres don’t so much collide as smoothly intertwine – copulate, even. And, like Black Mirror but unlike a lot of American “horror” cinema, everything has a point. This is a film with something to say, which uses pure entertainment to say it – which is its genius. You’re constantly too creeped out to realise you’re learning something.

The surface level of social comment, prevalent in the first act, is casual racism. When Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), a young black New Yorker, is taken by his white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams of Girls) to visit her parents at their upstate estate, his encounters with them, with a cop, with her brother and with their friends are an avalanche of micro-aggressions. Hearing them in this context – standing next to a white girl who seems to think her stock are more “woke” than they are – amplifies them for, at least, the white viewer. The effect is deeply squirm-inducing – an uncomfortable half hour at least – and seems “on-the-nose”. All that is rectified, however, by the brilliant intricacies of the script as it continues, and which I will not reveal.

The casting is so clever, as Williams and the actors playing her parents, Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener, bring with them a particular suite of luggage filled with leftist progressive articles such as Girls, The West Wing and, in Keener’s case, the films of Nicole Holofcener (Please Give, Friends With Money and Enough Said). There is a “Jordan Peele” role – Chris’ best friend, Rod – but Peele wisely gifts it to LilRel Howery, who makes a juicy meal of it. And mention must be made of Betty Gabriel, whose turn as Georgina the maid is brilliant on every level.

Peele obviously knows his genre from go to woe. There are very clear influences and references to other classic thrillers, but to even mention them may spoil things a little. Better you just go. And for goodness’ sake, or at least your own, avoid the trailers, which as usual give away too much (I’m told; I’ve avoided all trailers now for years). This is a fantastic film which is going to come back into the cultural conversation at year’s end; I can’t imagine that it won’t be on my Top Ten. See it at the cinema with friends, and then go out afterwards – you’ll have plenty to talk about.