Editor’s Note: This story contains spoilers about the film “Us.”
If you are reading this story without having seen Jordan Peele’s latest film “Us,” then you have only yourself to blame.
The movie is so layered that it probably takes more than one viewing to fully catch everything Peele appears to be trying to tell us in his new thriller, but we’re about to try.
There’s biblical scripture, Michael Jackson references, “Easter eggs” and oh so many rabbits that people who have seen the film are trying to sort out.
Viewers have been going back and forth on social media about what it all means – especially the ending.
The film centers on the Wilsons, an African-American family on vacation in Santa Cruz, California, when their dopplegangers show up in red jumpsuits, one fingerless glove on their hands, some shears and murder on their minds.
They are “The Tethered,” shadow people who have been living twisted underground versions of their counterparts’ lives.
While Adelaide (played by Lupita Nyong’o) is meeting and falling in love with Gabe Wilson (played by Winston Duke), their “shadows” – Red and Abraham – are being thrown together in the world of “The Tethered.” This alternate union is an unhappy version of their marriage and produces monstrous forms of the Wilson children, played by Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex.
The actors perform both roles and none so masterfully as Nyong’o, who is already receiving early awards season buzz.
Her character is powerful a woman who, as a child, came face to face with her shadow person and has apparently been traumatized about it since.
After much blood letting in which legions of “The Tethered” show up above ground to kill their counterparts and form a “Hands Across America” type chain, there is an epic battle between Adelaide and Red.
But hold on, there’s a twist! (We won’t give it away.)
The Wilson’s son eventually figures out what’s going on and the movie ends with the family fleeing “The Tethered” in a car driven by his mother, giving her son the creepiest of smiles.
What the hell, Peele! How do you sleep at night?!?!
“I think a lot of people are catching onto the fact that there’s a lot of United States/American imagery in this,” Peele, who wrote and directed the film, told NPR.
“And the duality of this country and our beliefs and our demons, I think, is on display,” he said. “But I think ‘us’ is bigger than that. And I think one of the reasons this movie has an expansiveness is because ‘us’ is subjective.”
Peele said the term “us” means different things to different people.
“I think in the simplest form, the very nature of ‘us’ means there is a ‘them,’ right?,” he said. “So that is what this movie is about to me, is that: Whatever your ‘us’ is, we turn ‘them’ into the enemy, and maybe ‘we’ are our own worst enemy.”
Now back to that ending.
Does it mean there will be a sequel? Or maybe a prequel?
Probably, because the film made a gazillion dollars its opening weekend (ok, it really made more than triple its $20 million production budget). Hollywood is nothing if not consistent in trying to keep a good thing going.
Sounds like Peele has plenty to work with.
“I have the entire mythology of this world because the audience can tell if you don’t,” Peele told Polygon of the underworld in which “The Tethered” live.
At least we know where that smile in the last scene came from.
Peele told Polygon the “Mirror Image” episode of “The Twilight Zone” was a big influence for the film.
“There’s something about this idea that the doppelganger that has this creepy smile,” he said. “They know more than you know.”