Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Us (2019)

Us is a film comprised of foreshadowing, nuance, and ambition. There is a lot of talk of coincidences, clones, and tunnels. There are clones in tunnels.

The concept is foreshadowed for 30 minutes before the plot really starts moving. It’s a psychological horror movie that feels a little like a political thriller. While a film’s tone should normally not take so long to establish, the movie earns its time, using it to educate the audience on the goings on, and there are several surprises.


It’s the eighties, and a creepy-looking little girl encounters her clone in a beachside carnival hall-of-mirrors. Cut to the “present day”, where we meet the grown-up version. She has a wisecracking husband, a normal-enough daughter, and a little boy who wears a monster mask and is named Jason. They take a trip to the spooky beach.

Everything proceeds as planned until another family shows up in the driveway of the summer home. They break into the house, and that is when things really get going.

The film juggles religious beliefs with a pseudo-political sci-fi premise. There is a cloning element, and I have to wonder if fear of the events portrayed in the film is why some people are against cloning. Everything in the movie is a bit of a stretch, but that’s what the director is known for.

The film ends with a kind of Marxist demonstration. I won’t spoil the ending, but this film does for holding hands what Jaws did for sharks. Maybe that’s just pretentious film criticism, but a film called Us which is so textured in themes can’t literally be about clones, right? Get Out (2017) was more direct and honest genre fiction than this, so I presume that Peele is on a path into the experimental and/or thematic.

I would like to stress two things: I am not a cultural critic, and the director is not a revolutionary. The reverse is more true. When a filmmaker makes a film, the filmmaker does what the others do, or what he thinks the others do, or what he thinks audiences think filmmakers do. Take it from me; I’ve dabbled in the “art film” thing a bit myself. It’s cultural collectivism, which includes individualist/solipsist views at the center of Western thought. When you tell a story with themes, the result can be as complex as the teller, rich with nuance and conflict, even if you aren’t trying to send a message.