“Us” is an allegorical tale that interweaves horror and thriller elements into a package that most everyone can enjoy (read: not for young kids).
The film, directed by Jordan Peele, is the filmmaker and comedian’s second film after the wildly successful and award-winning “Get Out” of 2017. It stars Lupita Nyong’o as Adelaide “Addy” Thomas, a mother of two who had a traumatic experience near her family’s summer home when she was a child. Thomas is traveling reluctantly with her husband Gabe and children Zora and Jason. She expresses extreme dread about returning to a traumatic location, but Gabe convinces her to relax her mind about the trip. At the beginning of the trip, Thomas and her family begin experiencing odd coincidences with Thomas’ own experiences as a child and this begins to distress Thomas. After a trip to the beach, the family returns home to find intruders in their driveway who quickly become aggressive towards them. Once the family of intruders invades their home and can be clearly seen in the light, son Jason realizes that they appear to be twisted doppelgangers of the family. The copy of Adelaide begins describing in horrific detail the hardship she has suffered, describing herself as a “shadow” of Adelaide. After this encounter, the copies begin terrorizing the family with horrific torture and each family member has to escape on their own. After conflicts between all the family members, they escape and find their neighbors dead by similar circumstances and learn via the news that millions of people have been murdered by their own doppelgangers. They decide to end this by killing their doppelgangers before they can do the same to them.
The movie is a large step forward for Peele in his directing career because it’s a film that comes off slightly more mature than “Get Out.” The issues with “Get Out” were that the horror and comedy elements of which Peele is more experienced in were mixed too freely, but with “Us,” save for a few brief moments, this active mixture is much more controlled. The horror elements stay in the realm of horror and the thriller elements stay in the realm of thriller. This active separation also lends itself to the overall cohesion of the film in terms of script, cinematography, and direction.
However, this film is not perfect. While the film is quite incredible in its scope, there are major plot holes that I think Peele wants the audience to forget. The first being that the creation of the doppelgangers, known as “the Tethered,” were products of the U.S. government. The process or how they were able to create these copies is not expanded on at all and is left pretty much in the dark. I think this ultimately hurts the film because it attempts to pull the wool over the audience’s eyes and leaves more questions than it answers.
The allegorical elements of the film have to do with classism, or the belief that certain economic or social stations are more superior or inferior than another. The “Tethered” exist in underground tunnels mimicking their above ground counterparts in twisted and animalistic fashion, but Adelaide’s copy is different somehow and she chooses to fight the system as it is. The underground copies have worse living conditions no free will and no complex thought. They live in an ultimately lesser station for no reason other than that’s what they were created to do. This post-apocalyptic revolution that the “Tethered” put on is ultimately about the way people in poverty are treated by society: lesser, filthy, and ready for revenge.
“Us” is a step in the right direction for Jordan Peele as an improving writer/director and will last as a hallmark of his style and work. “Us” receives an A-rating.