Seing double: “Us” review

When she was young, Addy lived through a traumatic event, which left her scarred for a long time. Now, Adelaide Wilson is a happy wife and mother of two children. However, while on a holiday trip with her family, she encounters her past demons once again: a family that looks exactly like hers shows up on her driveway and won’t stop until Adelaide and her close ones are all dead…

A unique voice in the world of horror

By making “Get Out”, Jordan Peele, formerly probably best known as a comedian, has shown he is definitely a director to be watched. Alright, perhaps people who would call him “the successor of Hitchcock” or “the contemporary master of horror” should hold their horses for a bit — after all, he has only made two films so far. But, judging from the quality of those, you have to admit that Peele might be remembered as someone great. “Us” does not only prove his huge film-making talent but also his wide film knowledge and a particular ability to absorb you with storytelling so that you are involved in it hours, or even days after you’ve seen the movie.

A multi-layered story

“Us” is this rare film that works both as simple entertainment and a layered metaphor. Those who just want to be scared, thrilled and surprised will come out of the cinema satisfied. But those who would like to go deeper and decipher the disturbing story full of rich symbols and allusions to our world will also be rewarded. Especially that you could understand the film in many, many ways.

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For some people, “Us” will be a story about personal demons that we like to push into the “underground tunnels” of our subconscious. These bad features of ours, which we don’t want to show or even acknowledge, tend to magnify (almost like the film’s bunnies, which multiply uncontrollably) and come out twice as strong. All of “Us” characters are flawed in one way or another, and their doppelgängers represent these flaws in an exaggerated way. They will either submit to them, overcome them or — as one of the last scenes seems to suggest — learn to live with them.

Other people will see “Us” as a parable about social inequalities (be it class, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity based). The doppelgängers symbolise people like us: with the same qualities and abilities, but lacking one basic thing — opportunity. Peele suggests these marginalised communities will revolt one day, but he also seems pessimistic about violent revolutions, cleverly referencing the infamous failed fundraiser called “Hands across America”.

Those who pay attention to details may come to yet different conclusions. For example, the facade of the amusement park attraction connected to the doppelgängers changes from “Shaman’s Vision Quest Forest” in 1986 to “Merlin’s Forest” in modern times, suggesting that these evil doubles may symbolise Native Americans, whom Europeans settlers exploited to build the U.S. There is also a returning reference to Jeremiah 11:11, a Bible fragment talking about God punishing people for praying to false idols. And in a way, all the films characters worship false idols: be it a new boat, a mobile phone, one’s own appearance or an Alexa-like AI assistant.

And there is plenty more of where this comes from, because the more you think about “Us”, the more you find, making the storyline truly fascinating, and — quite frankly — brilliant.

Almost like a dance

Such a good script needs an equally good director, and Peele once again does his job almost perfectly. “Us” cinematography is marvellous and thoughtful. Everything has its place here: from the slow zoom-ins and outs, through smart light manipulation to intelligent framing, which often underlines the film’s symbolism. The editing is also well-thought-out and helps to amplify the anxiety-inducing atmosphere. And if it wasn’t enough, Peele has some awe-inspiring staging ideas. Believe me, when you see the scene of Lupita Nyongo’s two characters’ confrontation — which plays out almost like a weird, disturbing dance — you will feel fulfilled. And disturbed, but that’s what you get for watching horror films. Last but not least, Peele shows he’s a true horror erudite and he references (sometimes visually, sometimes through other means) many of the genre’s classics, making “Us” a rewarding treat for horror geeks.

Double roles, double the respect

Another spot-on element of the film is acting. Lupita Nyong’o will probably be overlooked by the Academy, just as Toni Collette was for her role in “Hereditary” last year. But Nyong’o truly deserves all the accolades because she does incredible things, both as Adelaide and her dark counterpart Red. And the others also deliver. Winston Duke works fantastically as a comic relief, Elisabeth Moss does some crazy things with her face (Jim Carrey would be amazed), and the child actors: Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex and Madison Curry all impress with their meticulous work on the difficult double roles.

Summing things up

I could write and write, because “Us” is this kind of film that stays in your head and the more you think about it, the more ideas you have. Still, I would probably not be able to convey all I feel, so to sum things up I’ll just say: “Go watch it. It’s a horror film that will satisfy all cinema-goers”.

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