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Movie Review: “Us”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Theatrical Release: 3/22/2019

Theatrical Release: 3/22/2019

Synopsis

Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) has not quite gotten over a trauma from her childhood. As a child, she found herself stuck inside a carnival’s hall of mirrors. The power was out, and no one else was around, or so she thought. Faced with many reflections of herself, there was one reflection that did not respond to her movement. She soon realized she was not looking at a reflection, but was instead looking at a copy of herself. The copy was wearing almost identical clothes, and she was extremely terrifying. Adelaide got out of the hall of mirrors as quickly as she could, but it was an experience that has haunted her for her entire life.

Adelaide is now an adult and she is taking her family on a summer vacation near the very same beach where Adelaide found herself stuck in the hall of mirrors all those years ago. After her son has a strange experience with a man outside the hall of mirrors, she tells her husband Gabe (Winston Duke) about the trauma she experienced as a child. Adelaide thinks that her doppelgänger is coming after her, although Gabe is not convinced that what Adelaide saw was real. However, that night, four shadowy figures appear at the end of the driveway of their vacation home. The figures form a family that looks a lot like theirs, and after creepily standing there for awhile, the shadow family makes their move. Before long, Adelaide’s family comes face to face with the mysterious family who looks exactly like them. It is unclear what this family of copies wants, but they clearly want to do Adelaide and her family harm.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Lupita Nyong’o (+10pts)

The Beginning (-2pts)

The Doppelgängers & The Plot (+10pts)

The “Tethered” (-4pts)

Winston Duke & The Kids (+6pts)

The End (-4pts)

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Pro: Lupita Nyong’o (+10pts)

You will see this from most reviews of this movie—or any movie starring Lupita Nyong‘o—but Lupita Nyong’o did an absolutely incredible job with this movie. Every main cast member had to play two very different characters, and while the entire cast did a good job with it, Lupita Nyong’o shined above the rest. She made it easy to get invested in the main character and her story, while making the audience captivated with the story’s antagonist. Adelaide was a loving mother, and a loving wife, but she was haunted by what she saw when she was a child. Lupita Nyong’o was riveting to watch as she brought Adelaide’s complexity to the screen, but her performance was made even more riveting by her portrayal of Red.

Red was Adelaide’s doppelgänger and she was incredibly captivating to watch. From the creepy facial expressions, to the creepier posture, and the even creepier voice, Red was the kind of horror movie villain that fascinated the audience. To make things even better, despite how creepy Red was, it was obvious that there was more to this character's story, and Lupito Nyong’o deserves most of the credit for adding that extra layer of intrigue. The two characters were very different from one another, and Lupita Nyong’o made them both equally compelling. Adelaide had a lot going on in her head, and Red was the enigma that kept fans glued to their seats. It was truly an incredible performance from the talented actress.

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Con: The Beginning (-2pts)

I liked the movie a lot, but it had a weird start, as there were about four intro scenes. Any one or two of these would have been fine, but all of them together made the beginning of the movie feel choppy and slow. There was an intro scene explaining what happened to Adelaide as a child—which could have been handled through flashbacks—there was an intro scene showing someone watching ads on an old television, there was an opening credits intro, and there was an intro scene for Adelaide and her family in present day. Again, one or two of these would have been fine, but all of them together—especially with the long opening credits—made for a pretty slow start to the movie. Fortunately, the movie picked up quickly after these scenes were done and it was smooth sailing from there, but they made for a choppy start nonetheless.

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Pro: The Doppelgängers & The Plot (+10pts)

We live in a time where making a horror movie usually means making a generic demonic possession story—and often times a child possession story. There are plenty of exceptions to this, but most of the exceptions still end up feeling poorly written or have been filled with lazy scares. The filmmakers of Us set their movie apart from all of that. There are plot issues, sure, and I will get into those later, but the movie had a strong premise that was executed in a really entertaining way.

The idea of a family of evil doppelgängers was as interesting as it was different. What were the doppelgängers really, and what did they want? These were questions that will get audiences invested in this story. Once invested, the unique premise will have audiences wondering how the story will end, whether or not the main characters would survive, and what their lives would be like if they did. It was an interesting premise that provided a unique, compelling, entertaining, and unpredictable story. It was also full of interesting metaphors if you are looking for them, but none of those metaphors will beat you over the head or distract you from the movie in any way. Again, there were some plot issues, but they were minor ones, due to how fun and unique this movie was.

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Con: The “Tethered” (-4pts)

There were a bunch of areas throughout this story where the filmmakers seemed to completely abandon logic. One example was how the filmmakers used the connection between each character and their doppelgängers. Throughout the movie, the doppelgängers were referred to as “the tethered”. The reason for this name was that each character had a connection with their counterpart. Unfortunately, I thought the filmmakers did a poor job of explaining this connection.

The filmmakers established that the actions one character did directly influenced their counterpart—like a mirror. However, this only applied when it was convenient for the filmmakers. They seemed to use this connection whenever it conveniently benefited the story and they seemed to abandon the connection whenever it was convenient for there to be no connection between the characters. It just felt like the filmmakers did not think the concept through entirely, and instead forced the audience to rely heavily on the suspension of disbelief. There were more examples where the filmmakers abandoned logic, but this was the only area that I felt I could properly explain without spoiling the movie. All of the areas were examples of lazy filmmaking, but I fortunately liked the movie enough to get past these issues to an extent.

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Pro: Winston Duke & The Kids (+6pts)

While Lupita Nyong’o was the obvious standout of this movie, the rest of the main cast did a great job with their respective roles as well. Winston Duke played the father, Shahadi Wright Joseph played the daughter, Evan Alex played the son, and each of them also played their character's tethered counterparts. Each of these actors played two very different primary characters in this movie, and each did a great job with it. Obviously, some of these characters were more important to the story than others, but there was not a weak link in this main cast. Their strong performances were crucial in making the audience care about this family, as well as maintaining the audience’s interest in the tethered counterparts.

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Con: The End (-4pts)

The movie ended in a way that I enjoyed on the surface. However, once I started thinking about it, there was a lot that happened earlier in the movie that did not support this ending. There were some things that supported this ending, but there were just as many things that did not. In other words, the ending made a lot of characters' previous actions make little sense. I would be interested to watch this movie again to see what my knowledge of the ending does to my perception of these earlier actions. Maybe a repeat viewing will change my mind on the matter, but after reflecting on some of the decisions and comments from some characters earlier in the movie, I felt like this particular ending was a little unjustified.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: A- (91pts)

I liked Get Out and, and although I had a few issues with it, I was still really excited to see Jordan Peele’s second movie. I liked Us even more than I liked Get Out, but I had a few issues with this movie as well. The main issue I had with the movie was that some of the concepts and ideas did not seem to be thought all the way through. The idea of the “tethered” was a good one on paper, but the connection between the characters seemed to be utilized or abandoned whenever it was convenient for the filmmakers. I had my issues with the ending as well, as it did not feel entirely justified. While I thought the plot definitely had some issues, Jordan Peele's story was still one that I found fascinating.

The movie had a unique idea, so it was naturally unpredictable, but it was also interesting, and it was packed with interesting metaphors—if you are willing to look for them. The main cast did a fantastic job of playing two very different characters each, but Lupita Nyong'o was the obvious star of this movie. She is a very talented actress and she absolutely crushed the roles of both Adelaide and Red. Adelaide was relatable, but she had a mysterious and traumatic past. Red was creepy and unstable in the absolute most entertaining way. The movie had an interesting story, but Lupita Nyong'o made Us truly captivating. Get Out was solid, and I liked Us even more, so I am definitely excited for whatever Jordan Peele has in store for us next.

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