Us (2019 film)
Us is a 2019 American horror film written and directed by Jordan Peele, starring Lupita Nyong'o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex, Elisabeth Moss, and Tim Heidecker. The film follows Adelaide Wilson (Nyong’o) and her family who arrive at their summer home in Santa Cruz and are attacked by a group of menacing doppelgängers.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jordan Peele|
|Written by||Jordan Peele|
|Music by||Michael Abels|
|Edited by||Nicholas Monsour|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$254.7 million|
The project was first announced in February 2018, and much of the cast joined that summer. Peele produced the film alongside Jason Blum and Sean McKittrick (with the trio previously having collaborated on Get Out and BlacKkKlansman), as well as Ian Cooper. Filming took place from July to October 2018 in California, mostly in Los Angeles and Pasadena and also in Santa Cruz.
Us had its world premiere at South by Southwest on March 8, 2019, and was theatrically released in the United States on March 22, 2019, by Universal Pictures. It was a commercial success, grossing $254 million worldwide against a budget of $20 million, and received praise for Peele's screenplay and direction, as well as the musical score and Nyong'o's performance.
In 1986, young Adelaide Thomas goes on vacation with her parents to Santa Cruz. At the beach, she wanders off while her father is playing whack-a-mole and enters a funhouse, where she encounters a doppelgänger of herself in the hall of mirrors. When her parents eventually find her, she looks distressed and unable to speak.
In the present day, the adult Adelaide, who has since recovered her speech, heads to her family's lake house in Santa Cruz with her husband, Gabe Wilson, and their two children, Zora and Jason. She is apprehensive about the trip, but Gabe brushes off her misgivings while eager to impress their rich friends, Josh and Kitty Tyler. They meet the Tyler family at the Santa Cruz beach. After arriving, Jason wanders off and sees a man standing alone with his arms outstretched, blood dripping from his hands. When she realizes Jason is missing, Adelaide panics, and the family leaves the beach as soon as he is found.
That night, a family of four dressed in red appears in the Wilsons' driveway. They break into the Wilsons' home and attack them. The Wilsons quickly realize the four intruders are doppelgängers of themselves, led by Adelaide's double, Red. The only one who speaks, although with a very raspy voice, Red tells them a story about a girl and her shadow. The girl had a good life where she could choose things for herself, but the shadow lived a pale imitation of that life, being forced to copy the girl's actions against her will. Red describes her family as tethered to Adelaide's family, but she says she grew to hate the girl, and brandishing scissors, she says today will be the untethering.
The family is separated by their doppelgängers: Red makes Adelaide handcuff herself to a table, Zora is pursued by Umbrae, Gabe is pursued by Abraham, and Jason is sent to "play" with Pluto in the closet. Zora evades Umbrae and Gabe manages to kill Abraham, while Jason discovers that Pluto mirrors his actions and manages to lock him in the closet. Red is drawn away by Pluto's cries, allowing Adelaide to break free. The family regroups and escapes on their boat.
Meanwhile, the Tyler family is murdered by their own set of Tethered doppelgängers. The Wilsons arrive and realize what has happened, eventually killing the Tylers' doubles and turning on the news to see that millions of Tethered have been murdering their counterparts across the nation. The doppelgängers subsequently join hands together to form a massive human chain.
As the Wilsons drive away in the Tylers' car, they are attacked by Umbrae but manage to kill her. As day breaks, the Wilsons arrive at the Santa Cruz boardwalk, where they find the road blocked by their own car, which has been set on fire. Pluto has set a trap for the Wilsons, standing over a gasoline trail with a match. Jason, remembering that Pluto imitates his actions, makes Pluto walk backward into the fire. Red reappears and abducts Jason, making Adelaide run after them.
While Zora and Gabe recuperate in an abandoned ambulance, Adelaide returns to the funhouse and finds a secret tunnel in the hall of mirrors. It leads to an underground facility overrun by rabbits, where Adelaide finds Red. Red explains her belief that the Tethered were created by humans to control their counterparts on the surface. She says the experiments copied their bodies, but were unable to copy the soul, leaving the Tethered condemned to mindlessly copy the actions of their surface counterparts. The experiment was ended and the Tethered were abandoned. They lived on their own for generations, in abandoned mine shafts and subway tunnels, until Red organized them to escape and take revenge. The two fight, with Red anticipating and countering all of Adelaide's attacks. Adelaide finally manages to overpower her and impales her, then breaks Red's neck with her handcuffs. She finds Jason hidden in a locker.
Adelaide drives the family away in the ambulance and recalls the night she met Red in the hall of mirrors. It is revealed that Red is the real Adelaide and the surviving Adelaide is the doppelgänger. That night in 1986, the doppelgänger choked the real Adelaide unconscious, damaging her vocal cords, dragged her underground, handcuffed her to a bed, and took her place in the surface world, revealing why she couldn't speak after being found and why Red is the only clone that could speak. While the Wilsons drive off, Jason looks at his mother suspiciously, as if he is already aware of the secret. The film ends with the camera pulling back to show that the Tethered have joined hands across the country with news helicopters hovering above.
|Performer||Main character||"Tethered" character|
|Lupita Nyong'o||Adelaide Wilson (née Thomas)||Red|
|Madison Curry||Young Adelaide||Young Red|
|Ashley McKoy||Teenage Adelaide||Teenage Red|
|Winston Duke||Gabriel "Gabe" Wilson||Abraham|
|Shahadi Wright Joseph||Zora Wilson||Umbrae|
|Evan Alex||Jason Wilson||Pluto|
|Elisabeth Moss||Kitty Tyler||Dahlia|
|Tim Heidecker||Josh Tyler||Tex|
|Yahya Abdul-Mateen II||Russel Thomas||Weyland|
|Anna Diop||Rayne Thomas||Eartha|
|Napiera Groves||Dr. Foster||Amethyst|
|Cali Sheldon||Becca Tyler||Io|
|Noelle Sheldon||Lindsey Tyler||Nix|
|Jordan Peele||Dying Rabbit/Fun House Narrator||N/A|
After being dismayed with the "genre confusion" over Get Out, Peele opted to make his next film Us a full-on horror film, which was described by Rolling Stone as "spill-your-soda scary" compared to the "existentially terrifying" Get Out. Peele has said that an inspiration for Us was The Twilight Zone episode "Mirror Image" that was centered on a young woman and her evil doppelgänger.
Principal photography began on July 30, 2018 in Santa Cruz, California, including the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Most of the film was shot in Los Angeles, and the main house featured is located in Pasadena. The house had modifications and the team spent six weeks there. Filming wrapped on October 8, 2018.
Themes and interpretationsEdit
Critic Jim Vejvoda related the Tethered to "urban legends" and "xenophobic paranoia about the Other", also writing they resembled the Morlocks in H. G. Wells's 1895 novel, The Time Machine. Journalist Noel Ransome viewed the film as being about "the effects of classism and marginalization", writing "the Tethered are effigies of this same situational classism. They're trapped—mentally and physically—and ignored". Joel Meares of Rotten Tomatoes also noted that the Tethered, referencing the "we're Americans" line, are representatives of the duality of American society, how some citizens can afford to live on top of the class system, while others are stuck in poverty. He also noted the title Us could mean "U.S.", or United States.
Manohla Dargis of The New York Times notes that the Wilsons are "introduced with an aerial sweep of greenery" similar to the opening of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining and sees that movie as the principal influence on Us. Describing Peele as a "true cinephile", she also identifies allusions to other films, including Jaws, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and The Goonies, as well as one scene suggesting an influence by the Austrian film director Michael Haneke's 1997 horror deconstruction film Funny Games and subsequent U.S. remake.
The Tethered's red jump suits and single glove were an allusion to Michael Jackson along with the "Thriller" shirt seen on young Adelaide, and Peele has stated that Jackson was "the patron saint of duality". Peele referenced many other instances of 1980s culture, including allusions to The Lost Boys and Hands Across America, stating "Everything in this movie was deliberate, that is one thing I can guarantee you. Unless you didn't like something and that was a complete accident".
The film contains numerous references to Jeremiah 11:11, which reads: "Therefore thus saith the Lord: 'I will bring on them a disaster they cannot escape. Although they cry out to me, I will not listen to them'" (NIV). Critic Rosie Fletcher commented on the context, with Jeremiah warning Jerusalem was facing destruction due to false idols, and expressed the opinion that the film's characters also "worshiped the wrong things", such as Ophelia, the virtual assistant.
One of the central themes in Us is that we can do a good job collectively of ignoring the ramifications of privilege. I think it's the idea that what we feel like we deserve comes, you know, at the expense of someone else's freedom or joy. You know, the biggest disservice we can do as a faction with a collective privilege like the United States is to presume that we deserve it, and that it isn't luck that has us born where we're born. For us to have our privilege, someone suffers. That's where the Tethered connection, I think, resonates the most, is that those who suffer and those who prosper are two sides of the same coin. You can never forget that. We need to fight for the less fortunate.— Jordan Peele
The official trailer was released on December 25, 2018. The trailer, which was set to a darker version of the song "I Got 5 on It" by Luniz, featured a similar tone, editing, and shots as Peele's Get Out, prompting speculation that the two films were set in the same universe.
A second trailer was released on February 3, 2019, for Super Bowl LIII. The trailer features a narration by Lupita Nyong'o's character Adelaide, speaking with her husband Gabriel about the strange coincidences happening since they arrived at their beach house, and describing it as a "black cloud" hanging over them. The new theatrical release date, March 22, was announced at the end of the trailer. Deadline Hollywood estimated the studio spent around $77 million on promotion and advertisements for the film.
Us had its world premiere at the South by Southwest festival on March 8, 2019. It was also screened on March 6, 2019, before its official release, at Howard University. The film was originally scheduled for theatrical release in the United States on March 15, 2019, but was pushed back a week to March 22, following the announcement of its festival premiere.
Us grossed $175 million in the United States and Canada, and $79.7 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $254.7 million, against a production budget of $20 million.
In the United States and Canada, initial tracking had Us grossing $35–40 million in its opening weekend. By the week of its release, estimates had risen to $45–50 million, with advance ticket sales on Fandango outpacing A Quiet Place ($50.2 million) and Get Out ($33.7 million). The film made $29.1 million on its first day, including $7.4 million from Thursday night previews, one of the best-ever for a horror film and far higher than the $1.8 million Thursday grossed by Get Out, increasing weekend estimates for Us to $68 million. It went on to debut to $71.1 million, the second best opening for a live-action original film after Avatar ($77 million in 2009), as well as the third-best total for a horror film after It ($123.4 million in 2017) and Halloween ($77 million in 2018) and the best ever opening for an original horror film not based on a known property. In its second weekend the film made $33.6 million, dropping 52.7% (slightly above-average for a horror film but much larger than the 15% seen by Get Out), finishing second, behind newcomer Dumbo.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 93% based on 487 reviews, with an average rating of 7.95/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "With Jordan Peele's second inventive, ambitious horror film, we have seen how to beat the sophomore jinx, and it is Us." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 81 out of 100, based on 55 critics, indicating "universal acclaim." Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale, while those at PostTrak gave it an overall positive score of 80% and a 60% "definite recommend."
Monica Castillo of RogerEbert.com gave the film four out of four, writing that: "Us is another thrilling exploration of the past and oppression this country is still too afraid to bring up. Peele wants us to talk, and he's given audiences the material to think, to feel our way through some of the darker sides of the human condition and the American experience." David Griffin of IGN gave the film 9.0/10, calling it "a very, very strange film. But that's OK because it wouldn't be a Jordan Peele joint if there wasn't a little risk involved. Peele has proven that he's not a one-hit-wonder with this truly terrifying, poignant look at one American family that goes through hell at the hands of maniacal doppelgangers". John DeFore of The Hollywood Reporter called Us "a fiercely scary movie whose meaning is up for grabs".
Richard Brody of The New Yorker called the film a "colossal achievement," writing that, "Us is a horror film—though saying so is like offering a reminder that The Godfather is a gangster film or that 2001: A Space Odyssey is science fiction. Genre is irrelevant to the merits of a film, whether its conventions are followed or defied; what matters is that Peele cites the tropes and precedents of horror in order to deeply root his film in the terrain of pop culture—and then to pull up those roots."
The 1995 Luniz song "I Got 5 on It" is featured in this movie, first at the beginning, when the family is driving to Adelaide's family vacation home and later on in the film, when the family of tethered break into the vacation home. The once-fun song transmogrifies into an eerie "Tethered Mix", slowing things down, and fully indulging the ominous quality of the film. Peele claimed the inspiration for this track came from the movie Nightmare on Elm Street. Peele, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, said "I'm making a movie in Northern California, that's a Bay Area hip-hop classic."
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s)||Result|
|Golden Trailer Awards||May 29, 2019||Best Horror||Int'l Trailer "Nightmare," Universal Pictures, Buddha Jones||Won|
|Best Music||"Enemy," Universal Pictures, Inside Job||Won|
|Most Original Trailer||Nominated|
|Best Motion/Title Graphics||Us, Universal Pictures, Mark Woollen & Associates||Nominated|
|Best Sound Editing||Int'l Trailer "Nightmare", Universal, Buddha Jones||Nominated|
|Best Horror TV Spot (for a Feature Film)||"Nightmare SuperBowl :60", Universal, Buddha Jones||Won|
|"Megacation", Universal Pictures, Inside Job||Nominated|
|Best Thriller TV Spot (for a Feature Film)||"Nightmare SuperBowl :60", Universal, Buddha Jones||Won|
|Most Innovative Advertising for a Feature Film||"11:11", Universal Pictures, Inside Job||Won|
|MTV Movie & TV Awards||June 17, 2019||Best Movie||Us||Nominated|
|Best Performance in a Movie||Lupita Nyong'o||Nominated|
|Saturn Awards||September 13, 2019||Best Horror Film||Us||Pending|
|Best Actress||Lupita Nyong'o||Pending|
|Best Performance by a Younger Actor||Shahadi Wright Joseph||Pending|
|Best Director||Jordan Peele||Pending|
|Best Production Design||Ruth De Jong||Pending|
|Best Film Editing||Nicholas Monsour||Pending|
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