In 2019 writer director Jordan Peele has given presented “Us”, a follow up to his film “Get Out”. Like it’s predecessor, “Us” contains within a very deeper messages hidden behind the horror.
The film follows the Wilsons, a family on vacation in Santa Cruz. Adelaide, Gabe, Zora, and Jason. Adelaide seems very worried about going to Santa Cruz because of a traumatic event that happened to her there back in 1986. Which the film initially begins with. Then later that night, they are attacked by four strangers which they soon realize are in fact doppelgängers, or doubles, of themselves. Going by the names of Red, Abraham, Umbrae and Pluto. These doppelgängers referred to themselves as “The Tethered”.
Initially, this section of the film is structured and looks and feels a lot like a classic 80s slasher film. Instead of one killer stalking many people, it’s a few killers stalking a few people.
Eventually it is revealed that Adelaide had encountered Red before, back in 1986. As the film progresses towards its final moments, we find out that this doppelgänger phenomena was not limited only to the Wilsons but rather to people worldwide. Apparently the Tethered had existed in this long network of underground tunnels constructed by the United States Military as an experiment to try and control the populace. When the experiment failed, the Tethered were left to fend for themselves living only off of live rabbits.
As the battle for the Wilson survival culminates in a final confrontation between Red and Adelaide, the big twist at the end is revealed. Back in 1986, when Red first encountered Adelaide, Red knocked her out, chained Adelaide to her bed inside the tunnels, and switched clothes with her Replacing her in the real world. Thus revealing to the audience, as well as to the character Adelaide herself, that she in fact was the doppelgänger of the entire time. A dark and surprising twist ending indeed, for any of us who are fans of Peele’s work.
Doppelgängers in folklore and myth have long been shown as Omens of impending doom or death. Many historical figures including that of Abraham Lincoln and claim to of had encounters with doppelgängers of their own soon before such impending doom happened upon them. There’s something very otherworldly and very frightening of seeing something that looks like you, behaves like you, and yet isn’t you. It also calls into question the idea of individuality as to whether or not you in fact have it, or if you are completely alike with the double. And with what little information we’re actually given about the Tethered in this film, Jordan Peele leaves it greatly open to interpretation. However he leaves it open to interpretation, but not in a way that feels as though the film is riddled with plot holes. This is one of those movies where new bits of clues and symbolism will be discovered and rediscovered as “Us” is watched and rewatched.
As “Us” progresses and gets darker along the way, you’re showing little bit more of the nature of the Tethered, especially when they were living in the tunnels to fend for themselves. The Tethered themselves seem to be a metaphor for the lower class ascending and finally going after the privileged upper class who weren’t even aware of their existence. Even though these “lower class citizens” have always been there.
The whole revolt of the Tethered seems to be a great metaphor for oppression, or possibly a class struggle. This would make the message of “Us” a little bit greater than the message given to us would “Get Out”. With “Get Out” the message was one of racial differences, where is this one is about class differences regardless of skin color. It becomes less a story of man vs. monster, and is more about the privileged against the underprivileged. And because the Tethered in the very nature didn’t exactly have freedom of choice, after all they could do was mimic the actions that their counterparts in the surface world could do. Their fight becomes more logical and much more sympathetic in that they feel they don’t have freedom of choice. At least not in the way we understand it.
When the twist ending coming into play though, the motivations of the film’s main antagonist Red seem to be a little bit clearer. It seems the Tethered chose her to lead them because they understood that she was different than the rest of them. Primarily because she actually, in fact, wasn’t one of them. And her motivations seem to be very logical at the very least. After all she only wanted to reclaim the life that was forcibly taken from her by her doppelgänger.
And Adelaide herself and her fight to preserve family, seems to by the end of the film realize that all she was doing was justifying the horrible action she did when she was a child. But it really calls into question as to whether or not the villain of the story was right in their motivations. Very few times will film actually make you question the moral compass of the hero that you’ve been presented, A sort of unreliable narrator.
Jordan Peele has undoubtedly come along way since the days of being a comedian. But with what he has set up so far with both of his films, and in a little bit more poignantly in “Us”, Jordan Peele is setting himself up as one of the greatest directors of the horror, thriller, and indeed one of the greatest directors of the 21st-century.
9/10 Excellent, excellent film!