Jordan Peele’s “Us” ending — is the director's explanation disappointing?

Us dir. Jordan Peele 2019

Joranda peele has explained the Us ending in his own words while many continue to debate its ambiguity.

Jordan Peele's Us released in cinemas last month, and just as expected, we're all still talking about it. The (now) writer/director released his directorial feature debut - Get Out - in 2017, much to the admiration of critics, horror fans and general audiences. By applying sharp, unsettling and satirical social commentary, Peele's first outing delivered us so much more than a genre film. To this day, we continue to analyse and dissect the film's messages, and of all the horror films to arise from this decade, Get Out is the most likely to earn classic status. 

With this in consideration when Peele's sophomore effort was announced, expectations were high from the very start. Gradually, they continued to rise with the release of trailers and surrounding promotional material; notably, some very well executed posters which stress the film titles double-meaning of us and U.S. When it finally arrived, many flocked to the cinema in hopes of witnessing something special. Even this early into his directorial career, we expect Peele's films to generate and nurture discussion and reflection, the latter being one of his new film's crucial themes. Was it a success?

While the majority have argued Get Out as the superior effort, Us has gone down very, very well, cementing Peele as one of horror cinema's biggest and brightest names. For the most part, the film is a humorous and very well-executed genre film. The audience rolls with it, entertained but left anticipating a last act which will declare Us as something more than a generic - nevertheless stimulating - horror vehicle. Personally, it's in the last act that the film scrambles for answers and surrenders to the pressures of the "follow-up effort". 

The final twenty-or-so minutes of the film perhaps fails to present a coherent or accomplished message. Get Out unquestionably boasts a fantastic "ahhh, I see" revelation in its climactic sequence, but Us just feels way too vague in its assertions, which is baffling when the character of Red (Lupita Nyong'o) literally gives Adelaide - and the audience - a breakdown seminar of the events which followed the film's exposition. 

The A.V. Club has since published Peele's own take on the film's ending: "This movie’s about 'maybe the monster is you'. It’s about us kind of looking at ourselves as individuals and as a group," he concludes. "The protagonist in a movie is the surrogate for the audience. So it felt like, at the end of the day, I wasn’t doing my core theme any justice if I wasn’t revealing that we have been the bad guy in this movie. We’ve been following the villain.”

In response to the film's final moments which take place in the car, Peele also has something to offer: "I think the little smile she gives him is a lot of things. I think it’s a connection to the evil smile she once had as a little girl, but also a sort of understanding that her family unit was stronger from this experience.” What the director is saying does feel spot on, and most of the audience will have gathered this while exiting the cinema. However, this sort of profound realisation feels dampened by the style of execution, not at the very end, but in the scene which Red confronts Adelaide underground.

There are moments which don't really add up, and the concluding message feels way too broad. It's great that so many audiences have taken much more from the film, but for those that expected Peele to deliver another timely statement, all we got was a  moral takeaway which can be summarised in a word: "reflect". The journey to get to this, admittedly, is where the film truly takes flight. 

In other news, here are the most anticipated TV shows of 2019.

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