Spoilers for the movie will be alluded to. The reviewer highly suggests you watch the movie without reading reviews and essays!
Cheeks stained with tears, the Wilson family is pushed onto the coach and forced to face the intruders that broke into their home.
When asked who they ask, the leader— Adelaide’s doppelgänger— says in a voice hoarse from apparent disuse, “We are Americans.”
It feels like a bizarre thing to say in the moment, almost out of place in the rest of her story, but the Jordan Peele cultivates a heart-wrenching universe that forces the viewer to evaluate their place within the world and where their empathy (and efforts) are lent.
Us is a beautifully-made film, both in visuals and story. It is crafted with love and laced with horror (both immediately apparent and fridge, the best kind!). It follows Adelaide Wilson, played by the stunning Lupita Nyong’o, and her family during a summer vacation to their beach house. Adelaide is plagued by memories of a short, but traumatic event as a child that hangs over her during the trip. Before she can cut their time in Santa Cruz short, the family is threatened by their almost-exact clones.
My favorite horror movies tend to make me more sad than scared— personally, this usually chalks up to whether or not the characters where given the chance to be a part of the narrative rather than just becoming the bloody punchline. Adelaide’s motivations and background center this story— Nyong’o switches from the skeptical and vulnerable Adelaide to the menacing and collected doppelgänger Red. Nyong’o adopts difference voices, facial expressions, movement to demonstrate the constrat of these two characters– both equally complex and mysterious.
The rest of the Wilsons are absolutely lovable. Winston Duke (Black Panther) plays the sweet, dorky father— he dabs in front of his daughter and spins his tiny motorboat in efforts to impress his family. Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex) play Adelaide and Gabe’s children— an apathetic teenage daughter and a strange little brother that capture enough of their own personal uniqueness to keep the character types fresh and likable. The family’s interactions allow them to be the perfect supporting cast for Adelaide and her character arc, which deviates far from expectations. Peele’s natural comedic talent shines through their bickering affection for each other.
What leaves you feeling gutted is the constant question of the motive of your villain. Not the doppelgängers– it is somewhat obvious. It is Red and her seemingly omniscient sense of Adelaide and her family. The climax is raw, orchestrated act between the two players, a switch of roles that shows how the movie played with your perceptions. Your hero is only as good as your villain, etc.
Everyone and their neighbor already dropped the analytical essays about the movies and its dozens and dozens of references/Easter eggs. I am definitely the type to sit down and read them all (The shirt! Her voice! Pluto! Chemicals in the water!), because it just makes you excited as a viewer. Peele and his cast/crew put so much thought and dedication in framing ever single aspect of this film.
Some of the criticism of the movie I heard seems to take issue with the logic of the movie– an argument I disagree with a bit. I do not think movies and their message need to fit immediately with one, and only one, perfect allegory— and I don’t think movies need to lay out their details in a step-by-step guide. Trying to nitpick the world that Us has created takes away the atmosphere it has shaped to bring Adelaide and Red face-to-face.
After all, what we see in Us feels pretty real.