Sometimes we hear people say that we are our own worst enemies, and most of the time I think this is true. No one is “praying on your downfall” and your worst competition is your procrastination, your pride, just nurturing negative behavior in general. The movie, “Us,” created and directed by the brilliant Jordan Peele, explores these themes as he usually does, metaphorically.
Now I have to say, after seeing “Get Out,” he had a lot to compete against, an excellent and meaningful soundtrack to start. The soundtrack for “Us” was created by composer Michael Abels, who was somehow able to turn the song “I Got 5 on It” into a chilling horror theme, these instrumentals were put next to many classics, including Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” and Outkast’s “Ms. Jackson,” so needless to say, there were many head nods and approving noises made throughout the film by the theater’s audience. Now, to the actual plot of the film, beware for the spoilers ahead!
The movie begins with a trailer for Hands Across America, an organization that is supposed to entice some community togetherness of sorts, which is eerily similar to many other organizations that elicit that same type of message, normally being called something Across America. The next scene is in 1986, when a little girl named Adelaide is with her parents at an amusement park of sorts on a beachfront. She wanders away from them and finds herself in an abandoned funhouse, only to stumble into someone that looks exactly like her. The audience is then whisked to the life of the girl all grown up, with a family, and much to her dismay they are about to vacation at the same location, but things inevitably go awry. The bad guys of the movie, the Tethered, are the people underneath the funhouse who are essentially clones of the people above and are the result of a government experiment gone awry in an effort to control the population. The result was the people below controlling the Tethered, ending up having to replicate whatever their counterpart was doing, leading to a painful existence.
The protagonist, Adelaide, seemed to be the only exception, as her Tethered person is able to do everything with the expertise that she exerts. This is where we see a central movie theme arise: is it nature or is it nurture that decides someone’s fate? It would seem that Peele is saying that if someone is given the opportunity and is put in the right environment, it creates the exact circumstance for someone to thrive in. The movie obviously gets pretty scary as the protagonist’s Tethered being, Red, surfaces with the same family, but only a more twisted and deformed version. The goal of the Tethered once they reach the surface is to kill whoever they are connected to, normally done through stabbing with scissors that they all seem to have. They seem to know the exact moves of their doppelgangers, so there is truly nowhere to hide, and a limited space to run.
The ending scene encompasses the main theme that the villain in your life is yourself. Is there ever a true black and white answer to what is good and what is bad? We see Red and Adelaide beneath the funhouse, both maneuvering in a sort of tango to the creepy instrumental of “I Got 5 on It” with Adelaide trying and failing to kill Red. I won’t give away exactly what the ending is because I want you to watch it for yourself, but there is definitely a lot to ponder once the movie finishes, and there are certainly a lot of notions we can examine in our own lives. The general consensus is that Peele lived up to his prior hype in “Get Out” and has again created a masterpiece with people of color as leads, indeed a necessary shift in the industry. The final question I was left with as I was (along with the rest of the theater) jumping and screeching in my seat: Is it me, is it you, or is it us?
Written by Rajeena Bisla | Photography courtesy of Universal Studios