Us Movie Review: Praise and Theories

After his Academy Award-winning film, Get Out (2017), Jordan Peele has stunned audiences around the world with the release of his new psychological thriller, Us. After making over 70 million dollars on its opening weekend, as well as 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s easy to say he’s made another hit. If you haven’t seen the film, I strongly recommend NOT CONTINUING. I WILL talk about spoilers, and I will not be happy if I get threatening emails for ruining the movie for someone. You have been warned. Go see this awesome film, support an incredible artist, and then come back and read my thoughts!

The film takes place at a pier in Santa Cruz, CA, when a young Adelaide gets lost in a maze of mirrors, seeing an evil doppelganger of herself. Years later, as an adult, the memory still haunts her at during a family vacation to the same pier. Unfortunately, her paranoia becomes a reality when an entire doppelganger version of her family, also called the Tetherds, rise from underground and appear at their vacation home. The Tetherds make it clear that their mission, as well as the mission of every Tethered in the United States (for every person has one),  is to kill the original copy and rise up in a revolution. This sparks a war against the person and Tethered, forcing Adelaide, her husband Gabe, and children Zora and Jason, to fight for their lives.

First of all, Peele’s ability to write a strong, complicated, layered script is phenomenal. While this was definitely made evident through Get Out, the use of interesting dialogue, comedic timing, and complex symbolism beam through the theater screen. Fortunately, Peele cast the only actors suited for this triumph of a script. Starring Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex, and Elisabeth Moss, this cast is able to not only play their original characters, filled with background, fears, and motives, but also successfully play their doppelganger, who eagerly, but sloppily, attempts to mimic every move and emotion of the original’s. Not only do they deliver award-winning performances, but they completely shock and terrify the audience. Peele explores realms of the uncanny valley, a concept of strangely humanoid objects that can’t exactly match that of a human. The makeup of each Tethered is done so that they look similar to their original copy, but not enough to be an exact twin. It is truly frightening to leave the theater, filled with images of what your own evil twin could look like. Speaking of his casting choices, Peele pulled a revolutionary move by casting an all black family in a story that does not revolve around race. He says,

It’s important to me that we can tell black stories without it being about race. I realized I had never seen a horror movie of this kind, where there’s an African-American family at the center that just is. After you get over the initial realization that you’re watching a black family in a horror film, you’re just watching a movie. You’re just watching people. I feel like it proves a very valid and different point than Get Out, which is, not everything is about race. Get Out proved the point that everything is about race. I’ve proved both points!

By creating a more inclusive script, Peele proves an excellent point, paving a vital path for more directors to follow. Peele also wrote several strong female characters, especially that of Adelaide, played by Lupita Nyong’o. The audience follows her journey of caring and providing for her family, all while being able to physically fight her enemies. She faces an intense internal battle, as well as a literal one in the outside world.

Besides the more technical elements that make this film another masterpiece, Peele does not go lightly on the political and social metaphors, forcing audiences to think and discuss, which is exactly the kind of film that should be being made. While it’s just one theory out of several, this film could be about the internal and external battle of privilege. From what I believe after seeing the film once, those who live above ground (normal U.S. citizens) are only able to be there because they have pushed out the negative, scary, less glamorous parts of America’s history. Those who live underground are citizens whose history has been attempted to be erased and forgotten. And because they do not emulate a specific type of privilege, it is impossible for them to fully live with free will. This is also supported by the way the film’s title can be Us or U.S, making a remark toward the United States.

Peele says, “Any time there’s an Us, there’s a Them, so I’m always going to be pointing my finger at society and what our societal equals are”.

The end of the film has quite a big plot twist, revealing that when Adelaide met her doppelganger in the hall of mirrors as a child, the two actually switched places. Thus, her Tethered, Red, has actually been living Adelaide’s life above ground, and Adelaide has become one of the Tetherds herself. So on a more personal level, this film demonstrates the ways in which we as individuals choose to hide our flaws and personality traits we dislike about ourselves when perhaps they are a part of what makes us, us.

While I could go on and on discussing the importance, relevance, and ingeniousness of Us, it is better understood through simply watching and discussing the film. Peele has certainly done it again, making other once iconic horror films, seem purely mediocre.

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