I feel like this movie missed out on a good marketing opportunity with getting #MeTwo trending on twitter. On second thought… maybe not.
Family goes to beach house. Clones of family arrive at beach house. Clones chase family around town. Family finds underground facility housing all the clones and kills their own clone counterparts. As more clones of more people kill everyone and form a giant human chain-link fence around the US, family drives away. Also, mother of family finds out she is actually her clone, and her clone was her. Fin.
Now people seem to have a lot of complaints about the intricacies and logic of the plot, but luckily I’m here to explain everything. You see, similar to the movies I’m reviewing before and after this one, Us actually takes place within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And while I can’t provide proof, I can provide a proof.
Now, to fully grasp what I’m about to say, you would probably need to have taken about 3 or 4 courses in number theory. Obviously I can’t assume that much of both my readers, so I’ll try and dumb it down. In mathematics, there’s a concept called parity. Parity is an innate property of integers or, as mathematicians like to call them, numbers. Formally speaking, parity states that all integers fall into one of two congruence classes when divided by 2.
Sorry, I got a little carried away with the jargon there. In English, all this can be understood through the categorization of every integer into two groups: “even,” or “odd.” We can even use binary notation to represent these categories using a “0” or a “1.” In the context of the movie, let “0” represent the normal, surface-dwelling human, while “1” represents the clone of said person. As an example, the number “1111111111,” would represent ten of the “tethered” holding hands side-by-side.
Now, notice that for each person, they have two numbers attached to them. A “0,” which is themselves, and a “1” which is their respective clone. Now the master plan of these clones is to kill their human counterparts, eventually taking their place. Thus, while we start with 2*N people (N representing the initial number of normal humans) we end with N people left, namely N clones. Also notice that the ratio between the two can be expressed by the function N/2N = ½. In other words, the clones plan to kill half the total population.
You know who else killed half the population?
“Oh but how did the clones have all the resources to sustain themselves underground?” The infinity stones, you dumb idiot. Thanos can generate an infinite number of things using his glove including, but not limited to: rabbits, desks, gardening shears, and handcuffs (k i n k y).
Oh, and Lupita Nyong’o’s character was a clone, namely that of T’Challa’s girlfriend, Nakia. And you silly gooses thought actors could play different characters in different movies.
Now I know I spent my last review extolling the virtues of intersectionality, but I think this movie is best understood through a lens of class… consciousness (I don’t think I can say “Marxism” without dads Lobster and Raccoon yelling at me). Why I think class is more relevant to Us than say, race, has to do partially with statements made by Jordan Peele about casting. After being grilled on twitter about making movies with white leads, Peele stated that he wanted to continue making regular movies with black actors. Not only do I support that effort, I would add it’s a little silly that whenever a movie has a predominantly black cast, everyone assumes race is a core theme. Getting pigeonholed like that is detrimental to movie, especially if the filmmaker was going for something else.
So the uh… dialectic* is pretty obvious; you got your haves, which get to walk around and do stuff, and your have nots, which have to live in my old middle school building and do dumb theater exercises all day. There’s a bloody uprising, where the clones unite behind their one origin-traitor-turned-savior to kill their rich asshole counterparts. And finally, a dictatorship of the proletariat, which I guess is just a massive game of red rover along the coast. So generally pretty standard. What this movie does differently is how it goes about conveying that message.
A lot of similar works make use of a “humanization arc.” You start with a group that’s superficially different than the “primary” one, and over the course of the story you learn that they’re actually pretty cool, and even similar in a lot of ways. This movie inverts that, presenting us with characters that are aesthetically identical to the main cast, but characterizing them as ruthless, brutal, and uncivilized. So within the context of the movie, people may have started conclude that the tethered are fundamentally different, potentially even “naturally predisposed to violence.” Talking some bullshit like: “hey, did you guys know that 13% of clones commit 50% of all scissor related murders? I’m not originalist or anything, I’m just a clone-realist. God you snowflakes are all so sensitive.”
So the movie spends its runtime building fear, resentment, or lust (if you’re into that kind of thing) toward our tethered boys and girls. But then we get a twist— that Lupita Nyong’o, the cool Lupita Nyong’o we’ve known for the whole film, is actually her clone, and that crazy, desperately-in-need-of-a-cough-drop Lupita Nyong’o is the OG.
And here, the movie drops the big social-commentary bombshell: that both the clones, and the surface-dwelling humans are not, in fact, “just like that.” They’re products of their environment— take a clone, put ‘em into a dysfunctional household and they’ll end up with a loving family and a sweet-ass beach house. Take a regular person and put them in a weird basement for two decades and they’ll start slamming heads into coffee tables and engaging in mass hand-holding. And right there is the core theme of the movie: violent people emerge from violent situations; that if given the chance, people of any group can be successful. That someone raised in a certain environment will go on to reproduce the behaviors of that environment, regardless of their origins.
…at least that’s the normie take. Only the truly enlightened viewer will understand this movie’s true message: the doppelgangers represent the most repressed class in society, the gamers, and this movie showcases them rising up.
Adelaide/Red: Lupita Nyong’o is really good in this movie. The only recent horror film with such a strong lead performance I can think of is Hereditary, which was my second highest score of last year. Adelaide is kind of this movie’s core, thematically, narratively, and emotionally, and I think Lupita did a really good job of holding that weight. Somewhat similarly to what Get Out did with Chris, the entire story is basically told through her. In the beginning she seems kind of uncomfortable, but that’s justified pretty quickly once you realize what the general situation is.
I wasn’t entirely sure why Red had that whole throat-voice thing going on. My initial thought was that maybe something got fucked up when the original clone choked her out. My friend Addison’s explanation, which I think is better and makes way more sense, is that since all of the clones in the underground communicated through weird grunty noises, she sort of adopted that into her speech patterns. Either way, best laryngitis impression since Christian Bale in the Dark Knight trilogy.
Gabe/Abraham: Winston Duke was really fun to watch, and his character was a good balance between nerdy, goofy dad, and paternalistic badass. They also gave him by far some of the best bits in the whole script.
The kids: Props to the girl in this movie for probably the creepiest performance as a clone; every time “Umbrae” was on screen I was thoroughly unsettled. Also shoutout to Jason for 4d-chessing his clone into killing himself. I thought overall the children in this movie were unusually competent, which was nice. There’s often a rough dichotomy where kid characters are either annoying super-geniuses or completely and utterly useless, but this movie had a nice middle ground.
Also I just realized while writing this that every character killed their corresponding “tethered.” So y’know, that’s pretty cool.
Since Jordan Peele has a pretty prominent background in comedy, I was wondering how much of that would translate into this movie. And I’d say he basically delivered— there were some genuinely really funny parts. One of the things I liked a lot were all the “meta-jokes” and kinda trope-subversiony things. It’s not annoyingly edgy or post-modern, but there are a few really good lines aimed at this genre of movie.
My favorite exchange is when Adelaide raises the issue of clones attacking the family, and Gabe says something like: “I’m pretty sure I could kick your ass, so I think we’ll be fine.”
I did see some complaints that the constant use of comic relief broke a lot of tension, but I really didn’t think it was a big deal. If you’re easily susceptible to horror movies then this will be plenty scary, and if you’re not then it probably wouldn’t have mattered. As a person who’s somewhere in between, I thought this was appropriately spooky.
A few quick observations:
- Almost every scene in the film had a shot of someone’s reflection
- All of the scenes showing both characters and their clones simultaneously look really good
- The underground has a lot of classroom-looking rooms with desks, further confirming my theory that they shot this in my old middle school.
- (This one’s not actually mine but is probably important) There are a lot of visual references to The Shining, as well as a few other classic horror movies.
Also, the big hallway dance/fight scene at the end was lit. I loved all the match (?) cuts between adult Adelaide(s) and child Adelaide doing a ballet recital.
Given that rap is the most popular music genre in the US, I always find it kind of weird how little of it appears in movies. I feel like most hip-hop samples either appear in bad action movies, or movies trying to pander to younger audiences. Michael Abels, who scored both this movie and Get Out, knows how to use rap well, and it shows. This movie’s unofficial theme song, “I Got 5 On It” fits really well, and the other various rap pieces sprinkled throughout all work (and provide some nice levity).
“Pas De Deux,” which is part of the OST and plays over the big final fight, fucking slaps. It’s basically just a violin arrangement of the beat that “I Got 5 On It” samples, but it’s also a Bod certified banger.
Us is a really solid horror film with some good social commentary worked in. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s better than Get Out, but I think people who enjoyed one will probably like the other. Unless you’re really averse to scary movies I would recommend just watching it. (Also, Tim Heidecker doing the fake-out handshake thing to Elizabeth Moss as she’s bleeding to death is peak cinema.)
Good for: Twin halloween costumes, Jordan Peele’s directorial clout
Bad for: Young children (because of the uncensored rap lyrics, obviously)