The buzz of a new movie from Jordan Peele permeated social media timelines as soon as the trailer was released last year. After the success of his first solo-directed movie, “Get Out,” movie watchers wanted to know what was next. What was next, was “Us.”
During its opening weekend, “Us” made out with $70 million, which, according to Vox, was the biggest opening weekend for any original horror film in history. It makes sense to me. The allure of stories from a different point of view can be too much to handle for some (especially since recently Peele said he does not ever see himself casting a white person in a lead role.) But the fact that his films and even skits with television show “Key and Peele” usually have an underlying, or blatant racial theme makes it more enticing to watch and see what you can piece together.
“Us” did not follow the same story line as “Get Out,” but it did have underlying racial and political themes. However, even if you do not buy into that, the movie at face-value is interesting, thought-provoking and even funny. At times I found myself clenching my fists, whisper-yelling “Get in the car! Get in the car,” and laughing at some of the unfortunate events and clichés that occurred. I was satisfied after the movie, but begging the question, did I miss anything I should have caught on to? I did.
The movie begins with a title sequence that informs the audience of a major tunnel system beneath America: abandoned subway systems, unused service routes and abandoned mine shafts. Then a TV appears on screen and shows a commercial for Hands Across America. Hands Across America was an actual benefit and publicity campaign in the ’80s where millions of Americans held hands in a literal line across the US for 15 minutes. Participants donated money to save their place in line, and the money went to fight poverty in America.
Later we see the “Tethered,” a group of doppelgangers that could be described as an off-brand version of the leading family of the movie. When questioned who they are, Lupita Nyong’o’s character replies, “We’re Americans.” This line was jolting to me and solidified my thoughts that there had to be something political in the film.
Personally, I was still confused as to how the Hands Across America reference fit in, but it did add some interesting visual elements later in the film. I did a quick Google search and found that in commercials for the event in real life, Lily Tomlin, American actress, said, “It’s a great American dream, but only you can make it real.” This statement directly correlated to what Dr. Court Carney told me. Carney teaches courses in SFA’s History Department about African American history and American cultural history.
“...Peele seems to be playing with a very particular African American idea: the concept of ‘double-consciousness,’” Carney said. “As described by W.E.B. Du Bois, ‘double- consciousness’ relates to the ‘twoness’ of black America, that black Americans are forever impacted by a mythic vision of ‘America,’ as well as a pragmatic vision of black reality in America. You could see this in the mirrors and the masks and the doubles and the ‘tethering’ between the two.”
The American Dream is not attainable by all due to systematic racism and privilege embedded within our government and American citizens.
A recurring point in the movie was Bible verse Jeremiah 11:11. In the New International Version of the Bible it says: “Therefore this is what the LORD says: ‘I will bring on them a disaster they cannot escape. Although they cry out to me, I will not listen to them.’” In my mind, it brought me to the conclusion that as Americans, we are killing ourselves with our own divisiveness.
Visually, parts of the film are stunning. Vivid colors splash across the screen during beach scenes and ballet dance sequences, and foreshadowing just work in the very best way. The only problem (and it’s not a true problem) I had was Winston Duke’s character. He very much reminded me of Peele with his goofiness, even the way he was dressed. He was very much a character to me, while Nyong’o’s character was much more natural.
Overall, this was a fantastic movie, and even if you do not see the ultimate message, it is still entertaining as a thriller.