Imagine a family, dressed in red jumpsuits holding golden scissors, standing in your driveway with a smug smile. The catch: the family looks exactly like yours.
“Us”, directed by Jordan Peele — an anticipated film for this year — was finally released on March 22, 2019. With a cast comprised of black stars and an intriguing plot, the movie left watchers with goosebumps.
Peele’s directorial debut and blockbuster hit released in 2017, “Get Out”, was a critically acclaimed horror film, praised for breaking the typical horror genre story arc. His different take on horror made clear statements and metaphors about racism and slavery within the movie. However, “Us” was not as easily decipherable.
“I wanted to say something about the state of this country,” Peele said during an audience-led Q&A after the world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas. “It’s the one I live in. It’s the one I know best, and it’s the one that I have the most complicated pride and simultaneous guilt about being from.
While watching “Us”, ignoring the hidden messages, I would say it had everything a horror movie needs: jump scares, unexpected plot twists and a traumatizing backstory. Similar to “Get Out”, the film was complete with witty dialogues and scenes that left the audience rolling in their seats.
The movie begins with a young Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) with her family at the local carnival. Everything seems normal; there are candied apples, classic booths, and even some rides. But when her parents aren’t paying attention, she wanders off onto the beach. She walks into a tunnel with an illuminated neon arrow pointing the way. It’s a house of mirrors, and as she tries to find the exit, she runs into a reflection. The reflection in the mirror looks exactly like her: with braided pigtails and an oversized shirt, everything matches up, except it’s back is to her. Her doppelgänger smiles when she doesn’t. It becomes a day she wouldn’t be able to forget.
The movie then cuts to the present, with Adelaide in a car alongside her husband, Gabe (Winston Duke), and her two kids, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex). They all arrive at Adelaide’s home town.
Gabe convinces Adelaide, who is reluctant at first, to go to the beach; the beach where it all happened. The house of mirrors is still there along with the carnival. The whole time Adelaide sits on the edge of her seat and so does the audience.
Later that night, after they come home, four people — two tall and two short in stature, wearing red jumpsuits — stand hand in hand on their driveway. Four people that look exactly like them have come to replace them.
But the audience couldn’t help but wonder what Peele’s intentions were.
At first, even I didn’t quite understand the larger picture Peele was trying to convey. Fortunately, he did leave some easy bait to chew on, like featuring “F**k the Police” by N.W.A, thus making clear statements about the police through his great soundtrack along with early scenes in the film. Right when the four doppelgängers appeared in their driveway, Adelaide immediately called the police only to be told that it would take them fourteen minutes to get there.
The movie also breaks the stereotype that black people can’t swim or aren’t that “outdoorsy” through Gabe’s character.
“I want to see a black family on the beach, goddammit!” Peele said. “I want to see a black family buy a boat. That happens. And we’ve never seen it.”
The bigger picture took a lot more effort to break down. After discussing the film with my family, I have concluded that the film is a take on immigration in the United States. The fact that the doppelgängers were trying to replace Adelaide’s family shows how immigrants in America are perceived as job takers.
“We are in a time where we fear the other, whether it’s the mysterious invader who might kill us or take our jobs, or the faction that doesn’t live near us that votes differently than we did,” Peele said. “Maybe the evil is us. Maybe the monster that we’re looking at has our face.”
I would love to delve into the details of how different scenes and symbols brought me to that conclusion, but I’m afraid that would spoil the movie. Once again, the film is up to your interpretation, and I highly recommend watching it.