‘Us’—Jordan Peele’s follow-up to his Oscar-winning debut, ‘Get Out’
Lapacazo Sandoval | 3/14/2019, 10:43 a.m.
It’s challenging to review “Us” as there are many spoilers that occur in the first 10 minutes of the film. It’s being positioned as a horror film that is working on layers with sharp allegories that focus on the country’s growing racial tensions. I’ll buy that, for now.
In his second feature, which he described in a video message as an example of “Black excellence,” Jordan Peele delivers the film with fully loaded nightmare-inducing images of tunnel-dwelling, bloodthirsty döppelgangers who’ve come to claim the privileged lives their “aboveground” counterparts have been enjoying without an ounce of gratitude.
The film arrives in a shroud of secrecy and the less you know going in about “Us” the better. Their marketing plan is almost (almost) as confusing as the film. Example, once you’ve experienced the film the filmmakers are encouraging a conversation online but again—without giving away key spoilers—what kind of meaningful conversation can any viewer really have? Let me answer, none …
“Us” begins with young Adelaide wandering away from her parents in an amusement park during a trip to the Santa Cruz boardwalk. She’s eerily attracted to the beach and keeps walking toward the great unknown. She takes a detour into a funhouse and there something happens while the youngster is exploring the hall of mirrors: during a storm, the power goes out, and she comes face to face with something more than her reflection.
Set in 1986, this encounter unhinges Adelaide so deeply that she suppresses the memory for over 30 years—which is exactly where the film picks up, in the present day.
All grown up, Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) is now happily married to Gabe Wilson (Winston Duke) and the mother to two kids Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex). The family’s best friends are Josh (Tim Heidecker) and Kitty Tyler (Elisabeth Moss) who have twin teenage girls. It’s interesting to note that their friends are rich and white. They are all heading back to Santa Cruz for their summer vacation.
Inside Peele’s world, we already know that if something appears picture perfect then there is something sinister lurking just under the surface. In this film, he uses the idea of döppelganger which is a subgenre to really push into the deep hidden, internal fears that millions share. Peele is a clever social commentator. He knows how to slowly get under our skin and stay there. He’s been honest in the messaging from the start, stating: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
Flash forward to tomorrow’s headline and I’m confident that “Americans” will still be spending a lot of time worrying about what the “other” people are doing or not doing in this country. And by other, I mean immigrants, unfamiliar races and African-Americans. “They” are so concerned about the “others” that they give little thought to the 1 percent that actually run the entire world. It’s too scary a thought while looking at your own reflection to imagine that you are a slave, a clink in the machine, useless and utterly replaceable.