Jordan Peele’s ‘Us’ Wins Over Critics: ‘A Masterpiece’ Despite Some ‘Messiness’

While some think the film is too ambitious for its own good, everyone agrees Lupita Nyong’o shines

Universal Pictures

Two weeks before “Us” hits theaters, Jordan Peele’s follow-up to “Get Out” screened for the first time Friday night at SXSW in Austin, Texas. And judging by the early reactions from critics, it appears Peele isn’t suffering from any sophomore slump.

In her review for TheWrap, Yolanda Machado praised the performances of Lupita Nyong’o and Shahadi Wright Joseph, saying each brought something completely different to their dual roles the mother Adelaide Wilson and her daughter Zora, and then as their creepy doppelgänger personas. Machado also said that Peele — who wrote, directed and produced the film — cemented himself as the best horror filmmaker in the business.

“Nyong’o gives a master class in acting in dual roles and is almost unrecognizable as her doppelgänger persona. (Which is as much plot as will be revealed here.) Not only does she take on an entirely different voice, but her posture, movements and facial expressions suggest a different individual entirely. At times, I had to remind myself that this was the same woman; that’s just how good she is,” Machado writes.

“Wright Joseph, meanwhile, plays two extremes of a teenager: one slightly removed, angsty but loving, while the other is just downright creepy. Her strengths are on full display in some of the more climactic scenes, but that evil-twin smile will haunt me in my sleep.”

Most of the other critics largely agreed with Machado’s take, even if some thought “Us” may have been a little too ambitious for its own good. But the early word is that Nyong’o is the clear star of the film. Check out some more reviews below.

Dan Caffrey, Consequence of Sound

“There’s no denying the craftsmanship or the singular voice that’s on display in ‘Us.’ And yet there’s also no denying its messiness, which expands outward as the film moves farther and farther from its claustrophobic locale. Exciting? Sure. Unique? Without a doubt. But it’s hard to not feel frustrated by a script that never seems to figure out what it’s trying to say.”

Matt Patches, Polygon

“Peele constructed ‘Us’ to spark conversation without sacrificing his instinct to be wildly entertaining. There are hilarious kills and barbarous acts of violence. There are deep societal reads on 21st-century life in the U.S. (wink) and also jokes about explaining the drug references in rap lyrics to kids. There are sequences in film that recall the most artful horror films of the 1970s — and there are sequences that directly shout out to ‘C.H.U.D.’.”

Angie Han, Mashable

“Moment to moment, ‘Us’ is a film designed to make you react – to get you to giggle at Winston Duke’s extreme dad-ness (“You don’t need the internet. You have the outernet!” he tells his exasperated teenage daughter), or scream at a villain silently materializing in the corner of a frame. And it shapeshifts so frequently, and so deftly, that it’s a fool’s errand to guess at any moment what might happen next.  But it quickly becomes obvious that ‘Us’ has a lot more on its mind than making you jump. Every detail here seems carefully considered, down to the amount of dust gathered on a coffee table in a rarely used living room. In the hands of a filmmaker this precise, much of the fun is in waiting to see just how his intricate puzzle will come together.”

Joanna Robinson, Vanity Fair

“Peele’s overarching social commentary is clear, but he also said that he wants every individual to tailor their interpretation to their own experience. As with ‘Get Out,’ this film certainly has plenty to do with the black experience in this country. One of the biggest, most uneasy laughs of the night went to Nyong’o when, in full monster mode, she responded to the question “who are you?” by croaking, defiantly, “we’re Americans.” But ‘Us’ is never just one thing. It’s a masterpiece of doubling, layering, and tethering. It’s also a movie packed to the brim with horrifying iconography–the red jumpsuits, vacant-eyed bunnies, and always those slicing shears–some of which has obvious meaning, while Peele is disinclined to break down the rest the way he did with Get Out.

Randall Colburn, AV Club

“After a soupy first act, the film roars like a rocket, with quick shots of burgeoning chaos–Peele remains so, so good at finding the uncanny in public behaviors–serving to disorient in ways that nullify the need for gore. It helps that his cast is so game. Nyong’o is incredible, as effective in battle as she is in moments of drama. Joseph and Alex are also compelling, each giving their doppelgängers a fierce edge that never veers into the “creepy kid” template pervading modern studio horror. Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker, meanwhile, each get to flex heretofore untapped muscles as the family’s sousy, self-loathing pals. It’s unfortunate, then, that ‘Us’ splinters as it exhales. Its third act collapses during a fit of exposition that raises more questions than it answers, and its lingering twist lands with a palpable thud, failing to resonate due to a central metaphor that’s a touch too translucent.”

Evan Narcisse, io9

“All of the main cast pull double duty in impressive fashion playing the two sets of characters but Nyong’o shines brightest. She gives ferocious energy as a mother giving her all to fight against darkness and an opposite number seething with implacable covetousness.”

“Us” stars Nyong’o and fellow “Black Panther” star Winston Duke as a married couple who take a trip to a Northern California summer beach home along with their children, and meet another couple portrayed by Elisabeth Moss and comedian Tim Heidecker. Nyong’o’s character slowly becomes paranoid about her children’s safety, and as she becomes more concerned, they witness four figures in red suits holding hands at the end of their driveway. Those figures aren’t just anyone, but exact replicas of themselves.

“Us” opens in theaters on March 22.