After the release of Jordan Peele’s debut film, Get Out, many were excited to have a new visionary like Peele entering the horror genre. However, many were curious to see how he would follow up on such an impressive and insightful film.
Us is written and directed by Jordan Peele. It stars Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, and Elizbeth Moss. The film opens with a young Adelaide attending a carnival with her mother and father in Santa Cruz, California, in the summer of 1986. After her father wins her a t-shirt, she wanders down to the beach. Adelaide enters a fun house containing a hall of mirrors, where she encounters an identical copy of herself that’s not a reflection. Her parents eventually find her, and she is diagnosed with PTSD from the scarring event.
Flash forward to present day, we see a now-grown Adelaide Wilson (Kyong’o) and her husband Gabe Wilson (Duke) travel to the same summer vacation spot where these events transpired in 1986. The couple has two children, 12-year-old Zora and 10-year-old Jason. Things are seemingly ordinary, and the Wilsons meet up with their ritzy friends, the Tylers, down at the beach. Here we see Jason go missing, which floods Adelaide with memories of her past traumatic experiences. Later, things take a turn when an unusual family shows up in the Wilson family’s driveway and invades the home. Here is where things get interesting. The invading family is the twisted counterpart of the real Wilson family, sharing the same characteristics and mannerisms. The Wilsons engage in a fight for survival and inter-reflection on what it means to be human as they try to make sense of these strange occurrences.
Us is another fantastic installment into Peele’s collection. His directing style and attention to detail help to separate his work from others in the horror genre. With this film, he has solidified himself as more than just a one-hit wonder but one of the best directors of our time. Us delivers genuine scares, beautiful sound design, and interconnecting details that create a terrific film. There cannot be enough said about the performance that Lupita Nyong’o puts on as Adelaide/Red(her doppelganger’s name). Her performance is genuinely unnerving. She creates a feeling that leaves you uncomfortable throughout the entire film. In addition to Nyong’o, the whole cast did a fantastic job portraying their characters. Peele also adds humor at the correct times to keep the mood light, when necessary, without compromising the integrity of the horror element.
With all considered, Us still doesn’t quite reach the level of Get Out. The downfall of Us is the need for a completely coherent story. Get Out has a very tightknit plot and all elements of the story tied back into each other by the end of the film. In comparison, Peele substitutes that plot clarity from Get Out for a more theme focused story with Us. The film will leave you with plenty of questions by the end credits, and some of the inner workings of the plot are never fully elaborated.
There’s more than meets the eye with Us. Regardless, the film still manages to provide a thought-provoking horror flick that still excites, despite failing to tie up every loose end. Horror fans and Peele fans alike can sleep soundly knowing there’s a new face in horror providing original and creative horror content.
The film opens with young Adelaide attending a carnival accompanied by her parents. Here we see a homeless man on the boardwalk holding a cardboard sign with the bible verse Jeremiah 11:11 etched across it. The verse reads, “Therefore thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them.” This verse refers to God’s warning to the inhabitants of Jerusalem because he is angry with them for worshipping false gods. This message translates to Peele’s statement in the movie by demonstrating how wrapped up in “false gods” people of today’s world are. Mainly by technology and other materialistic things. This idea is displayed throughout the film in many different instances. Gabe is infatuated with his boat and Josh’s (the dad of the Tyler family) new car. You see Zora wrapped up in her phone with her headphones playing.
Of course, this ties into the doppelganger’s plan, which mirrors that of the Hands Across America movement. The movement is displayed across a TV screen as young Adelaide watches. It was a movement focused on drawing attention to oppressed people in America, and Americans joined hands to create awareness. Similarly, “Red” feels like the doppelgangers are overlooked and mistreated. Today, people seem selfish and are preoccupied with focusing on “false gods” to address fundamental global issues. Every creative decision that Peele makes is for a specific reason which makes his films completely immersive. Both Get Out, and Us reveal more and more connections with multiple viewings. We see this through numerous examples, with Adelaide’s double, Red, is the only double able to speak.
Later, we find this is due to Red being revealed as the true Adelaide and the evil doppelganger switching places with her all those years ago at the beach. The young “Adelaide” cannot speak after returning home because she does not know how. Adelaide was visibly compassionate towards Zora’s double when she flew from the car into the tree. This is because she is related to her, knowing what she went through living in the tunnels. Undoubtedly, Peele knows what he is doing when crafting a creative story. As previously stated, Get Out had a very coherent plot, and it didn’t leave you feeling like anything was missing.
Unfortunately, the inner working of Us‘s story might have become too big to cover and neatly tie together all its loose ends fully. Peele puts more emphasis on the details surrounding the themes of the story rather than providing a clean plot. For example, the origins of the tunnel and the doppelgänger are hardly elaborated on at all. It loosely alludes to an abandoned government experiment, but it is never further developed.
Consequently, we never learn the process or origins of the project. Beyond that, some of the more intricate parts of the project reveal plot holes when looked at intensely. We see that the doppelgangers seem to mimic the movement of their real-life counterparts, which leads you to believe that the doppelgängers are always near their partner. How does this work when a family goes on vacation or drives somewhere? How can the doppelgängers constantly move with their counterparts throughout the United States?
When young Adelaide goes on vacation, is she followed by her doppelgänger, or do they all happen to be in Santa Cruz? This theory seems to be the biggest issue with the film that is hard to ignore. Furthermore, why would Adelaide ever go back to Santa Cruz? Much less the boardwalk where she had her encounter? She was diagnosed with PTSD when she was found after going missing. You would think she would move as far away from there as possible so there wouldn’t be any chance for her secret to be discovered. Why can’t the doppelgängers walk out of the tunnels? They’ve been there 20-plus years, yet none of them ever found a way out, or do they not wish to leave?
Some of these questions would have taken another 20-30 minutes of screen time to explain. So it’s not hard to imagine why Peele left it out of the film. However, with a little bit more attention to detail regarding the plot, Peele might have been able to take Us to the next level and create a movie that rivaled that of Get Out.
One thought on “Us”
Hi Cayden! This review was so insightful and I wholeheartedly agree that Peele made specific creative decisions to make both Us and Get out immersive. Once again, another great review. Thank you for all that you do. Keep slaying away at these movies!!!!!!!