Jordan Peele hits 2019 strong with his new film, “Us”. Like the American actor, director and comedian’s 2017 film “Get Out”, “Us” also experiments with political statements hidden behind toe-curling horror. While the movie may depict a mind-boggling government conspiracy, what really is being said is much, much deeper.
The movie offers a metaphor for the liberal side of current opinions of our government, focused around the political controversies surrounding immigration and terrorism. During the SXSW 2019 Post-Premier interview, Peele reveals the truth behind the horror.
“This movie is about this country,” Peele said. “We’re in a time where we fear the other, whether it’s the mysterious invader that we think is going to come and kill us and take our jobs, or the faction we don’t live near, who voted a different way than us. We’re all about pointing the finger. And I wanted to suggest that maybe the monster we really need to look at has our face. Maybe the evil, it’s us.”
The story is told through two different timelines of the main character, Adelaide, following one in her childhood and another in her adult life with her two children and husband. The film begins with her as a young girl, watching the television as a “Hands Across America” ad plays, which serves as a major thematic backdrop for the movie.
Jumping to the present, Adelaide remembers her scarring memory as a child at the Santa Cruz boardwalk, where she was stuck in an amusement parks House Of Mirrors. As she tries to find her way out, she comes face to face with herself, only what she sees is not a mirror reflection. After revisiting the boardwalk on a vacation with her family, her series of flashbacks reveals what really happened all those years ago. It is revealed throughout the film that the government had used empty sewers and mines under the entire country to hide an experimental army of clones, one for every American.
The boardwalk trip begins to put Adelaide on edge, and signs of the double’s returns seem to grow. Adelaide tells her husband in the film with desperation, “I can feel her getting closer”. As the movie progresses, horrific events unfold of a family with “their faces” stalking them and holding them against their will; the shadow family wears bodies identical to Adelaide’s family.
One of the most bone-chilling scenes is a fire-lit discussion following the clone’s break-in. The families stare at each other, one with fear and vulnerability, and the other with a fit of chilling anger. At the same time, millions of clones begin to rise from the sewers and one by one murder their American doppelgangers with pairs of golden shears. Their goal? They call it The Untethering, a play on the 1986 Hands Across America movement to “tether” the nation together.
Peele brings to light through this twisted metaphor that while the government attempts to bring America together, they are ignorant of the reality that the evil they face is actually themselves. One by one, the American clones, dressed in all red just like the HAA Advertisement, line up in a continuous line across America following the slaying of a million human Americans.
Although Adelaide’s family survives the attack, the metaphor still projects the misplaced fear of outsiders as coming back to destroy America. Perhaps, the real evil we fear is ourselves. The last scene of the movie shows the bloody family driving away from the town of Santa Cruz, unknown where to go next. As Adelaide makes eye contact with her son, one last scene begins. The memory we saw at the beginning of the movie expands on what really happened that night of the boardwalk in her childhood. It is up for interpretation to whether Adelaide remembers this detail or not, but the plot twist is enough of a shock to leave a theater of jaws hanging loose.