“Us,” by Jordan Peele, is a 2019 American drama thriller that features the likes of Lupita Nyong’o as both Red and Adelaide Wilson, Winston Duke as Gabe Wilson and Abraham, Shahadi Wright Joseph as Umbrae and Zora Wilson, and Evan Alex as Jason Wilson and Pluto.

The story follows Adelaide Wilson, also known as Addy, as she returns to her summer home in Santa Cruz with her family for a seemingly idyllic vacation. However, their peaceful time soon turns into a harrowing ordeal when they are viciously attacked and taken hostage by intruders who are exact copies of Adelaide and her family. This becomes the foundation for a thrilling and suspenseful battle for survival, as the Wilsons are forced to confront their doppelgängers in a fight for their lives.

What happened in Santa Cruz in 1896?

The film begins in 1986, with young Addy enjoying a summer carnival at Santa Cruz beach with her parents. As she explores the carnival, her father suggests they play a game of whack-a-mole. Her mother steps away briefly, leaving Addy alone with her drunk father, who becomes focused on the game. Curious, Addy wanders to the beach and later to a mysterious mirror house. Inside, as she looks at the distorted reflections, the lights flicker and dim. In this eerie moment, she encounters her doppelganger.

In the present day, Addy, now a mother of two, Zora and Jason, takes a trip with her family to Santa Cruz, California, her childhood home. Despite lingering fears from her past, Addy’s husband, Gabe, insists on visiting the beach to get some fresh pictures. Reluctantly, Addy agrees. As they reach the beach, the family witnesses an ambulance taking away a dead man.

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Unnerved but undeterred, they meet up with friends, the Tylers, and their twins and try to enjoy the day. However, things take a surprising turn when Jason, the young son, encounters a doppelgänger of the deceased man, covered in blood. Panic ensues as Jason momentarily goes missing, leaving Addy terrified. Once reunited, the family decides it’s best to head back home.

Who are the Intruders in Addy’s house?

As night falls, Addy tells her husband about her childhood encounter with her doppelganger. Jason interrupts their conversation and nervously tells them about a strange family standing in their driveway. They peer through the window and see four people standing outside. The tension escalates when Zora joins them, and a frightened Addy calls the police. Jason approaches the family in the driveway, but they remain eerily silent and motionless. Gabe arms himself with a baseball bat as the man in the driveway begins walking towards him.

Gabe retreats inside and locks the door, but to their horror, the intruders find a hidden key and enter the house. The Wilson family is stunned to find that the intruders are exact copies of themselves, their doppelgangers. Addy’s doppelganger, known as Red, is the only one among them who can speak, and she reveals that these doppelgangers are their shadows, known as the tethered.

Red goes on to detail the connection between the Wilson family and their tethered counterparts. She explains how the tethered are like dark reflections who share a soul with their counterparts but live in shadow.  Red also recounts how when Addy welcomed Gabe into her life, Red was bound to his doppelganger, Abraham. Similarly, when Addy becomes a mother to Zora, Red finds herself linked to Umbrae, an evil version of Zora. Red further tells that while Addy gave birth to Jason, she had to undergo a self-extraction, meaning she had to cut her belly and pull her baby out herself.

What are the tethered people up to?

Red’s resentment towards Addy and her seemingly perfect life boils over as she reveals the tethered’s true intentions. She explains that they are there to break free from their shadow existence and take control of the lives they believe they deserve. Red forces Addy to restrain herself to a table, which, in a way, mirrors the tethered’s desire to break free from their constraints.

Meanwhile, Umbrae hunts down Zora in the dark streets, and Abraham forcibly separates Gabe from others and drags him away to assert his own agency, while Pluto, mirroring Jason, forces the latter to play with him. A passerby interrupts Umbrae’s chase of Zora, but Umbrae kills him. However, this gives Zora a chance to escape. Abraham’s attack leaves Gabe unconscious. Abraham then disposes of him in a boat.

However, Gabe manages to regain consciousness, fights back, and knocks Abraham off the boat. In the struggle that follows, Gabe wins and defeats Abraham by drowning him in the water. Gabe catches his breath, but he realizes that danger is far from over, and his family is still in danger. Meanwhile, Jason cleverly outwits Pluto by trapping him in a room while Addy breaks free using a fireplace poker. She reunites with Jason, flees the house, and finds Zora waiting for them in the driveway. As Abraham approaches from the shore, the family tries to make an escape on a boat.

Us (2019) Movie Ending Explained:

Did the Wilsons survive the tethered apocalypse?

Us (2019) Movie Ending Explained & Themes Analyzed
A still from “Us” (2019)

At the Tylers’ home, their doppelgangers swiftly dispatch them. Upon reaching the Tylers’ residence, the Wilsons are shocked to find it overrun by their doppelgangers. Addy confronts her impostor but is overpowered and dragged inside by the others. While Gabe and the kids distract one of the impostors, the children manage to sneak inside the house. They head upstairs to rescue their mother, but the Tyler twins ambush them. Fortunately, Zora takes down both twins. Addy finds herself tied to a bed by Kitty’s double while Gabe rushes back to the boat, pursued by Josh’s double.

Gabe gets into a fight with Josh’s double and uses a flare gun to kill him, while Kitty’s double witnesses everything through a window. As for Zora, she tries to fend off Kitty’s double and survives when Jason arrives. They join forces and manage to kill Kitty’s double. Once the copies are taken care of, the family turns on the news to make sense of the chaos.

Addy suggests fleeing to Mexico for safety. However, their plans are thwarted when Umbrae appears in front of their car, but Zora’s quick thinking helps them escape. Pluto also tries to stop them, but Jason manages to eliminate him as well.  Suddenly, Red grabs Jason and enters the mirror house where it all started. Addy finds Red in a classroom, where she explains that they are humans, too.

Why Did the Government Create the Tethered?

Red reveals that “the Tethered,” also known as the Shadows, are artificial beings created by the government to control the originals on the surface for their own agenda. The project aims to create clones connected to people through their souls. The goal was to use the clones to control people like puppets all over America. However, the experiments failed, and the Tethered were abandoned underground for generations.

They mindlessly mimicked the actions of their counterparts and survived on rabbit meat. That night, fate brought Red and Addy together, and the others quickly realized that Red was different, so they chose her as their leader. They had planned this for years, seeking vengeance on their counterparts and wanting to tell everyone about their existence.

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Addy and Red fight, and Addy ultimately kills Red. She finds Jason, and they reunite with their family. As Addy drives, we see a flashback of the night she meets Red, where she chokes Addy unconscious, then drags her to a room and handcuffs her to a bed. Red changes into Addy’s clothes and takes her place in real life. That night, Addy’s parents unknowingly take home Red, thinking she’s their daughter. This explains why Red is the only Tethered who can talk and think differently, leading the revolt. In simple terms, Addy was the clone all along.

Red’s voice is damaged because she was choked by her double, which damaged her larynx and made her voice raspy and guttural. This also explains why Addy, as a child, couldn’t talk after she was found at the beach, as the Shadows don’t know how to speak. Over time, Addy’s Shadow learns to speak and becomes a regular person, capable of love and laughter, forgetting she’s a clone. The movie ends with a several-mile-long human chain formed by the doppelgangers.

Us (2019) Movie Themes Analyzed:

“Us” is one of the best American drama thrillers that delves into the dark consequences of a failed government experiment. The film is both disturbing and thought-provoking, shedding light on how the government abandoned the tethered, a group of clones created by the project when it proved unsuccessful. This abandonment serves as a stimulus for the tethered to seek vengeance against their counterparts. At its core, the movie symbolizes the duality of the human soul, portraying how both darkness and light exist within us all. Despite sharing the same soul, the tethered’s experiences in confinement and neglect have cultivated a deep-seated darkness within them, which contrasts with the brighter aspects of their counterparts’ souls.

To culminate, “Us” portrays a clear division in society, showing the stark difference between the privileged and the marginalized. The film depicts two groups of people who look identical but lead vastly different lives. While one group enjoys freedom and control over their lives, the other is forced to live in captivity in dark tunnels and has to survive on rabbit meat.

Like Jordan Peele’s “Get Out,” “Us” too can be seen as a powerful commentary on societal divisions, which zooms in on issues such as the wealth gap between the rich and the impoverished, as well as the challenges faced by minority groups in a predominantly white society.

Read More: Contextualizing Jordan Peele’s ‘Us’

Trailer:

Us (2019) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia, Letterboxd
The Cast of Us (2019) Movie: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker
Us (2019) Movie Genre: Horror/Mystery & thriller, Runtime: 1h 56m
Where to watch Us

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