Jordan Peele’s Doppelganger thriller has already proven itself both a commercial and critical success and in instances like this I would let the massive wave of other critics sing the same praises I had and consider my own input unnecessary. However, if I had to describe Us in one word it would be a toss up between: taxing, grating and irritating.
So is Us a bad movie well yes, but actually no. Lupita Nyong’o is phenomenal, her dual performance is captivating and saves this movie from being downright awful. The entire family honestly does a nice job in their roles. The overall production was pretty spectacular to watch; cinematography and color palette felt really striking and did amplify the atmosphere of every scene. It is in no regards a poorly constructed film, but that said I’ll rip the Band-aid off and come out and say this film is pretty bad. Hopefully by conceding these points I can come across as not trying to be contrarian and you can at least take my points in with some consideration.
So I guess before I get into a discussion that requires you to have seen the movie I’ll give the basics of the points I’m making. Us is not a well developed story and it’s largely due to it not knowing what it wants to be. Yes you shouldn’t feel constrained to fit genre constraints but too often is the deviance from it a sacrifice rather than an addition. Us wants you to think deeper when watching but doesn’t want to challenge you in doing so and even seems uninterested with playing with the ideas in creative ways.
I don’t know how to explain my grievances without at least spoiling it in some capacity so if you haven’t seen the film I’d turn back now. So basically, this film is just The Purge. If that is what you wanted and you like The Purge or these spooky men on the lawn try to break into your house stories maybe you can shut your brain off and have a good time but the movie certainly never intends to be that. At least you could say The Purge was tonally consistent. Could you legitimately see Ethan Hawke’s character referencing Home Alone amidst the terror in that movie. “But, K Jordan Peele likes to be a genre-bender and can add humor in pretty well. Did you not see Get Out” Well first, the small fact that Us feels like ever Creepypasta or Reddit NoSleep story rolled into one you can’t say that this movie isn’t a horror primarily. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the humor in this film, it made me grin at many moments but it sacrificed any attempt to achieve tension throughout the whole film. Yeah, Get Out had comedic moments but notice how they mostly come from a comic relief character or within more normal settings. Daniel Kaluuya doesn’t say “boy this is some Clockwork Orange shit” when he’s constraint in the chair that would be pretty dumb wouldn’t it…. so why do you let this movie get away with it.? You could maybe argue that it’s within Winston Duke’s character not to take things seriously but I don’t know should I really be scared if the people in the actual situation obviously aren’t.
That’s the other huge problem with this movie, the tethered are massive trolls. Just like The Purge and The Strangers we have psychopathic murderers who don’t like to kill the people who they’re trying to kill. At least in those other movies it made sense that it was kind of their amusement or sick entertainment to watch these people struggle to survive…. why don’t the tethered just run in and kill everyone (especially obnoxious when you show another set of tethered just run up and kill everyone). The amount of incidences a character only survives because of “plot armor” or the fact that the movie can’t be 20 minutes long is so irritable. We may have super durability and reflexes but sure makes perfect sense I can pull your scissors away from my face. I know I have the perfect opportunity to kill you but I’m just going to stop what I’m doing and stand completely still, I hope no one swings a golf club at my head lol. I was sitting there trying to make excuses for the film: maybe you can only kill your own connection, maybe they want to not kill but replace them in the above world, maybe they have some nefarious plot in store for them. A bond villain style monologue might be an annoying cliche but at least it isn’t 40 minutes long.
But K, this isn’t your typical horror, it’s thought-provoking and has some many layers and twist that surely you must have enjoyed that aspect of it. YOU HAVE TO BE JOKING RIGHT??? I am bewildered by the amount of people saying that there is a clever twist to this movie… you all have seen a movie before right? For starters you have to assume that a movie with twins, clones, or doppelgangers is going to most likely involve the yankee-swap at some point right, that must be at the very least been on your radar. When our young Adelaide journeys into the hall of mirrors and confronts her evil twin the film hard cuts to black before opening credits. Presenting a hard cut to black in the middle of the action in a suspense or horror film 80% of the time means they are going to reveal what happened after the cut, later in the film. What the hell else is going to fill in the blank? If it was really her then they probably would have shown her panic and run out of the house of mirrors and then she gets grabs oh no but it’s okay because it’s her mother and they carry her away as she looks at the ominous funhouse roll credits. You still could have swapped them somehow with some clever editing of her getting lost in the funhouse but I guess this movie has to let the moron on his phone think it’s some big revelation that the character is the clone the whole time. If it wasn’t obvious enough let’s make it more painfully in your face by having the character return with abnormal behavior of not talking.
I think this is one of the worst “plot twists” ever and I say that in not coming from the “it’s bad because it’s predictable” perspective but more because…. what’s the point. This happens when like the characters is 6 years old and does not change any of the relationships in the film. The fact of the matter is that it recontextualizes nothing or doesn’t add a little texture in the slightest. None of the characters new the “true” version of Adelaide, so to them the one that they end up with might as well have been the true one. She sure never acts like the shadows until the reveal and I like to think you are more the person you’ve been for 20+ years then for six years. Sorry kids but the foster parents that where there your whole life are probably more of your parents then your biological one.
The twist only makes things seem more dumb in hindsight. How does Lupita learn to “earn a soul” (metaphor and subtext aside, we’re getting there), why does the “true” Adelaide find it so important to drop heavy exposition about where they come from if she knows that she already knows that. So it’s a twist ending, but it takes two minutes to solve, and it adds absolutely nothing knowing that in regards of the film…… “genius”.
I also appreciated that the film not only wanted us to know how this film ends but takes away the mystic of the supernatural of this film also before the opening credits even finish. One of my least favorite movies is Regression starring Ethan Hawke and Emma Watson. I hate it mostly because it spoils itself within the first frame of the movie and pretty blatantly too. That movie opens with text that explains what regression therapy is and even notes how it’s not reliable and tends to cause false memories. So surprise, Emma Watson is lying about her parent’s abuse and the guy she had give a testimony to support these claims had false memories because of the regression therapy he was taking… SHOCKING. So when Us opens and says psssh… there’s people living in tunnels, am I supposed to wonder if there’s people living underground? (I’m aware the film just references underground tunnels but c’mon that’s 2+2 math right there) Why not explain more by showing a bunch of rabbits in cages, surely this is not to say that there is any animal experimentation going on…. c’mon that is not a leap of logic. So the mystery of how these doppelgangers came to exist is something that is heavily implied and we are less than two minutes in…. great.
(I mean just imagine Citizen Kane opens with a text that says “Our most precious memories are the ones that come from a child” or if Empire Strikes Back included in the text crawl “Darth Vader has a son and daughter outside of the Empire, weird coincidence considering Luke doesn’t know who is father huh?)
I certainly appreciate that there was “AN ATTEMPT” at producing a metaphoric piece, with some subtext and symbolism but again I think they fall under either grossly underdeveloped, obvious or too on the nose/simplistic. Before even watching this movie, as a joke I started referring to it as U.S. and the double entendre was not that discrete. Maybe not everyone had to read Body Ritual Among the Nacirema but whenever I see an odd title like this I kind of wonder why the author decided upon that title hmm…. . This movie succeeds in having just enough that the audience feels proud and smart that they understand what the underlying ideas are but it also considers you to be insultingly stupid and has to carry your hand throughout the whole movie. Congrats, you figured out that this film is kind of a big metaphor for class struggle/immigration/the oppressed it’s not like they just flat out said “we’re Americans”…. oh wait. Oh Jeremiah 11:11 that’s a neat reference let me shove it directly in front of the camera 7 times to make sure you got that ( adds very little to overall message, just basically reiterated the major theme). Haha get it Michael Jackson’s Thriller, because the ending of the music video is pretty much how this movie ends I’m glad I waved that in your face just in case you’d miss it. Did you also realize that Schindler’s List is about the holocaust?
Despite the meaning being so easy a caveman can recognize it you think there would have been more thought on what exactly we’re saying. I’m going to go out on a limb and probably say that Peele didn’t want to imply that immigrants are dangerous and threaten the sanctity of your home or that charity and political activism is often empty or straight up bullshit but I think those are fair assessments of what is shown. I mean Hands Across America was more or less a sham, so aren’t you indirectly implying the Tethers actions are also somewhat a sham. What’s the point of stirring public discourse and committing to this act if there’s no plan or solution. Seems counter productive to do a demonstration if you’re going to murder everyone before hand. If you wanted to make the Tethers sympathetic than maybe you shouldn’t have made them mindless ferrel killing machines with no motivation. The metaphor is really shallow and didn’t offer much to build a cohesive narrative or defining principle just lofted these big ideas and then didn’t create anything profound with them.
(This is my initial reaction, I noticed that there is more to be discovered looking into some of the distinct features of the rabbits, and the omnipresence of ambulances but overall I don’t think it aides the points I refute.)
So yeah…. Us puts the U.S. in sucks. I’ve hyperbolized my dissatisfaction a bit, overall its a well put together movie with some pretty damn good performances throughout but it is mediocre at best when it comes to the idea that was trying to be executed as is. Don’t let me take the wind out of your sails, if you enjoyed this movie I’m happy for you…. I may disagree but we each all have our own tastes and you should feel free to express your admirations passionately. Overall, Us just misses the mark in provoking the necessary suspense to be the genre film it desires and lacks to methodically scripted depth to be more.
What did you think? Leave your grrr…. angry comment below and tell me why I’m a horrible person or something mean IDK? Have a wonderful day, and I will see you at the movies.
Cover image is from Us [credit: Universal Pictures]