Verdict: This movie will leave you dissatisfied on purpose and anxious for Jordan Peele’s future works to come.
Writer’s note: this review may contain spoilers or just overthinking of a plot line which could in effect ruin your viewing experience. If you haven’t seen “Us” yet, please go and do that as soon as possible.
Jeremiah 11:11 King James Version (KJV)
11 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.
Jordan Peele’s movie “Us” isn’t meant to be two hours of you being desperately afraid. Yes, it is a horror movie but above everything else, it will make you think. Uncomfortable thoughts and realizations will begin to pass through you in the theater and will continue even after you leave your seat.
If we all had evil twins living in their own underground community plotting to stab us to death with golden scissors, that’d be pretty terrifying. What’s even scarier though is the whole concept of reflection the movie presents. When we turn to look at ourselves are we the ones donning red jumpsuits and living off of raw rabbit meat, or those who live above ground, perfectly oblivious to any lives beside the ones they can see.
The film has the same traces of dark humor that we saw in “Get Out,” little one-liners to laugh at when ultimately the characters are in a state of panic. It also is creepier than it is scary. Those two may sound like synonyms, but there’s a difference between being afraid to come home to an empty apartment versus getting too deep in one’s thoughts after going through the plotline again and again in your head. You’re never going to look at soft smiles or sewing shears the same way after watching this movie, but Peele didn’t mean for that to be the scariest part.
Elisabeth Moss brings me shivers when I think back to the scene that starts with her underground twin applying lip gloss in a way one could mistake for a holy ritual. Then, we watch her silently sob as she watches her husband get ripped to shreds by a motorboat, but then her face distorts and she begins to gag on an ugly, maniacal laugh.
Lupita Nyong’o plays the doting mother with a traumatizing experience at the Santa Cruz boardwalk and the woman who brings the underground community together to organize and carry out the mass execution of everyone who lives above.
We watch members of the Wilson family turn past their fear and rely on primal instincts in order to survive as the plot plays out. They slowly realize it’s an “us vs. them” situation. But, it is only Nyong’o who uses the shears against their attackers, the only one who lets out grunts as she kills to protect her family. And no one gets to know the truth about her, the whole truth, except for her son, played by Evan Alex.
Peele was able to start his movie with a dramatic, pull-back shot of multiple rabbit cages that sets the audience up for an inexplicable amount of discomfort. Like, they’re just rabbits, right?
He also echoes Moss’ evil smile as we watch Nyong’o strangle her twin to a point past death while grunting and laughing, only for her to realize her son was watching the entire time. When Alex dons the mask he’s had with him since the start of the movie in one of the final scenes after she shares one of those gut-wrenching soft smiles, audiences won’t know who to root for anymore.
Nyong’o gives Alex a gut-wrenching soft smile before turning back to driving their getaway ambulance to freedom. The audience will watch the knowing face of the boy who can’t be meant to be older than 10 before he dons his mask. No one knows who to root for anymore.
Peele doesn’t end his film with clarity or a clean, tied-up ending.
He doesn’t need his audiences to know everything or feel totally at peace with what they just saw, he knows they will keep on watching.