Us - Review
Us – March 22, 2019
The success of Jordan Peele’s horror films have come from the mystery surrounding the story. In both Get Out and Us, not knowing exactly what’s happening has led audiences to rush to the theater to learn the movie’s secrets. JJ Abrams used to do this in his movies with the trailers for Cloverfield and Super 8. But in those instances, he was just hiding what the monster looked like. So, audiences saw those movies just to see the monster. For Jordan Peele, we already get a look at the villains. However, Peele’s writing skills go beyond just “watch out for the monster” and transforms into “why are the monsters acting this way?” This extra layer of secrecy makes for a more engaging movie-going experience.
Where Us succeeds in originality, it falls flat in cohesiveness. A major problem with the film comes with the big reveal in the movie. I will get into those details in the spoiler section at the bottom of this review. I will try my best to talk about this movie without ruining anything beyond what was shown in the trailer.
The one thing I really enjoyed about Us was the villains. It’s really hard to come up with original horror characters beyond demons, monsters and crazy guys in masks. Peele successful creates a new entity to fear for audiences. Much like A Nightmare on Elm Street, if audiences had a dream with Freddy Krueger in it, they would be afraid that he would actually try to kill them in their sleep. Us does the same thing with Doppelgängers. If I ever see someone who looks exactly like me, I’m going to fear that they will try to kill me. So, I give a lot of credit to creating a villain that goes beyond the movie itself.
The performances are absolutely fantastic. Lupita Nyong’o really carries the entire movie. Her ability to embody two characters is spectacular to the point where you forget that you’re watching the same actress play both parts. Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex also give their best performances as the rest of the family. You believe their family dynamic and fear throughout the movie.
Now without spoiling anything, the big mystery in the film leaves you with more questions than answers. In a recent interview, Jordan Peele said that he left it ambiguous to let audiences come to their own conclusions. Which I think is a cop-out. If you can’t explain your own movie, then you just didn’t work hard enough to make it clear. “Leaving it to the audience” really just means “I didn’t know what to do, so you figure it out.” I shouldn’t leave a movie more confused than I did going into it. Audiences should be coming together to talk about the story, not debating the logistics of the ending. Get Out is the perfect example of a well-thought-out story with a clear understanding of what was happening and why it was happening.
Overall, Us is worth seeing for its creativity and acting performances. But the movie has too many “wait, what?” moments that will make you feel more frustrated than satisfied. I would wait to rent this, but if you want to avoid spoilers from the internet and your friends, then I would see this in theaters as soon as possible. Even for lackluster films, it’s still nice to experience movie secrets from the movie itself. Below I will dive into that secret and the questions/problems it creates.
Alright, so the big secret in Us is that the Doppelgängers are actually clones that want revenge on their real-like counter-parts. Before this was revealed, the movie hinted at the fact that these people could be their demonic evil self. Basically the evil version of you that experiences everything opposite of you. Kind of like a parallel universe type of thing. Which is actually better and more interesting than clones. Your demonic opposite-self attacking you is more engaging and creates less questions than the clone story angle.
When Lupita Nyong’o’s character is a child, her clone kidnaps her and locks her away in the underground tunnels where all the clones live. Then the evil clone takes the place of her in the real world. This sparks the clone revolution for them to come to the surface and kill all their counter-parts. This is because everyone in the country has been cloned! This major plot point is never explained and creates a landslide of questions. First of all, why is everyone in the country cloned? How did they clone everyone? Were children cloned? Did the clones happen to have sex with their clone partners and end up with the same clone children? Where did they get 300 million gold scissors? How did these underground tunnels house 300 million clones? How can clones with scissors take over the world against people with guns? Especially since they are easy to spot because they all wear red jumpsuits.
These questions and many more divert the focus away from the horror of the movie and towards questions about how and why this was even happening in the first place. I would have much preferred a story about demonic counter-parts than clones. Even if you keep the clone storyline, it would be easier to follow if it was just their family and not the entire United States. Once that plot point was revealed, the whole movie reminded me of The Island.