“Therefore this is what the Lord says: I will bring on them a disaster they cannot escape. Although they cry out to me, I will not listen to them.” – Jeremiah 11:11
The movie Us opens on a scene in the year 1986 with a young girl and her parents at the Santa Cruz boardwalk at night. She ends up separating from her parents to walk out on the empty beach. Her eyes find an attraction that is on the beach, and she walks into what looks like an abandoned maze of mirrors. In the maze, she discovers something deeply terrifying – her doppelganger. After the opening scene, the movie shifts to the present day where the Wilson family is heading to their vacation home. The little girl from the opening scene has now grown up and a mother, Adelaide, who is nervous about returning to the Santa Cruz boardwalk. Gabe, her husband, found her reaction to be overexaggerated, but ultimately tries to help her feel at ease so they can take their kids Zora and Jason to the beach to meet up with some old friends. After one small scare and a number of bizarre coincidences on the beach, the Wilson family returns home for a quiet night in. However, the quiet night in quickly turns into a night of horror as they are terrorized by some unlikely trespassers that lined up across their driveway: doppelgangers of their family.
There are a number of things that I enjoyed about this movie. First, I thoroughly appreciate that this movie allows for there to be multiple interpretations of what the movie symbolizes. Second, I thought the casting choices were superb. Jordan Peele had Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Anna Diop, and Evan Alex casted as the Wilson family members. All of them did an excellent job playing both their main character and their doppelgangers.
As pointed out, the acting in this movie is quite good. Lupita Nyong’o, who plays both Adelaide Wilson and her doppelganger Red, flawlessly sells the complex nature of both of her roles. The doubles actually maintain a lot of the character traits of the originals and all of the actors manage to convey this without speaking for the most part and in such a manner that the clones have this subtly off-kilter manner to them that is disconcerting.
The movie has plenty of humor to it, most of which ties into the great depiction of the central family unit. The Wilsons are a close and supportive family that does not get dragged down by the thinly-veiled contempt a lot of movie families have for each other. They are all quite capable, with the father managing to dispatch his double while suffering from a broken knee.
The most obvious reading of the movie is as a metaphor for the “two Americas” with the doubles representing the “forgotten” people of America such as the homeless and disenfranchised and the “originals” being people who they very well could have been. The only thing that separates them are factors outside of their control, in this the “accident of birth”. Those who live in privilege, the originals, have just a general lack of curiosity about the existence of these people. In some cases, such as the twist of the movie, there can often be this sentiment of “I can’t change this and reflecting on it causes me distressed, so I’ll just try to ignore it.” But one day, the reckoning will come.
My biggest issue with this movie arises from the nature of these doppelgangers. It is revealed that they were created decades ago as part of a government project to control people living on the surface because their souls are linked but their bodies are not. This program fell through and was abandoned with the doubles left to live an empty, tormented existence, living a mirrored life of their originals. I was confused about the logistics of it: does the copy control the original or the original control the copy? Under what circumstances, because they aren’t always moving in sync?
It’s quite likely that I will gain further insight and answers to my questions upon a re-watch. This is a smart, suspenseful, and entertaining horror movie, destined to become a classic.