Movie Review: Us (2019)

Release Date: March 22, 2019
Director: Jordan Peele
Production Company: Monkeypaw Productions | Perfect World Pictures

Following on the success of Get Out, writer/director Jordan Peele returns with another film of sheer terror.  The movie begins in 1986 when a young girl named Adelaide (Madison Curry) wanders away from her father at a seaside amusement park in Santa Cruz. Entering a decrepit fun house, she encounters a girl who looks just like her.  The experience traumatizes her, leaving her unable to talk, and only through taking up ballet is she able to express herself again.

In the present day, the adult Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) goes on vacation to a summer home near Santa Cruz with her family: goofball husband, Gabe (Winston Duke), moody teenage daughter, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph), and shy and sensitive son, Jason (Evan Alex).  Meeting up with friends at the same beach in Santa Cruz stirs up memories of her traumatic past causing Adelaide to become increasingly anxious. As she reveals her childhood trauma to Gabe, the power in the summer home is cut, and Jason announces “There’s a family in the driveway.”  That family turns out to be terrifying doppelgängers of Adelaides family known as the Tethered who invade the house and begin attacking the family.

That’s all I’m going to offer by way of summary as the movie is best enjoyed unspoiled. What’s brilliant about Us is that everything that is introduced early in the movie, even stray pop cultural references, becomes relevant later in the movie. There are no stray details. While dealing with creepy twins bearing sharpened shears is scary enough, the movie also works on multiple metaphorical levels.  The Tethered represent our subconscious selves that we hide in order to live in civilization.  From a societal perspective, the Tethered also represent how when some people lead lives of privilege at the expense of the suffering of hidden, Other people. Even the title has multiple meanings as the Tethered are literally “us” to Adelaide and her family, but it can also represent the initials of the United States. One of the more terrifying lines in the movie is when Adelaide’s doppelgänger Red responds to the question of who they are by hissing “We’re Americans!”

Nyong’o puts in a terrific dual performance as Adelaide and Red.  Alex is also remarkable as Jason and his alter-ego Pluto. Elizabeth Moss gets special recognition for a scene in which she makes putting on lip gloss incredibly creepy.  Us also includes one of the greatest musical soundtrack cues in history with N.W.A.’s “Fuck tha Police.” I highly recommend checking this movie out, just don’t watch it late at night, and leave the lights on!

Rating: ****

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