One of the most talked about films of the year, Jordan Peele’s US, arrives on home video today and I decided to revisit the film and dive into the special features to crack the case of all the symbolism seen throughout. I will give fair warning, there is going to be spoilers in this article, so if you haven’t seen the film yet, I suggest holding off on reading this until you’ve viewed it.
US takes place along the northern California coastline where Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o) reluctantly returns to her beachside childhood home with her family and finds that she is haunted by unresolved trauma from her past along with a string of eerie coincidences. As darkness falls after a tense day at the beach, the Wilsons discover four figures standing in their driveway. They soon realize this is only the beginning of their troubles as they find that the four figures are terrifying and uncanny opponents: doppelgangers of themselves.
Now that I’ve had the chance to rewatch this film after seeing it back in March, I was able to pick up on small nuances that I had missed the first go around. Those of us who have seen how the film ends know that Adelaide is actually one of the tethered and switched places with the real Adelaide back when she was a child. While re-watching the film, I was CONVINCED that Jason, her son, was also a tethered. I had come to this theory through a series of events, most notably the way in which Adelaide and Jason communicate with each other and the closeness between the two (more than Adelaide’s relationship with Zora), as well as Jason’s odd behavior at the beach including him building a tunnel in the sand. He seemed rather cool, calm and collected when shit really hit the fan and in a way, it mimicked the behavior of Adelaide’s; however, it wasn’t until I visited the special features that I realized I was probably wrong in regards to this theory.
In Duality of Us, Jordan Peele discusses a lot of the subtext of the film and talks about Jason (played by Evan Alex) and the role that he plays. Peele goes on to explain that Jason is actually the most clever of them all as he is able to see through the veil and pick up on the notion that something isn’t quite right with his mom. Though the theory of Jason being a Tethered is a strong theory to have, what Jordan Peele explains actually makes much more sense – which it should be considering he, you know, wrote the story. Out of all the special features within the home release of US, The Duality of Us was probably the most informative. It also allowed me to have a better understanding of the symbolism towards the rabbits as well as the scene in which Zora/Umbrae (played by Shahadi Wright Joseph) does the Pas de Deux. Additionally, Peele goes into some of the themes at play such as privilege and freedom. I already thought Peele was a master storyteller, but this special feature further confirmed that thought.
One of the special features that I found to be rather unsettling was Becoming Red. It’s a very short featurette, only about 4-5 minutes and informs the viewer that throughout filming Lupita Nyong’o stayed completely in character. We get to watch as the camera continued to roll in-between scenes as she twitched and spoke in that broken voice from the film. Tears also streamed down her face which I couldn’t tell if it was because her eyes were open so wide or because she truly was crying due to the emotional pull of the story. Honestly, the whole featurette put me on edge and is a testament to the extraordinary talent that Lupita possesses.
As for the characters themselves, Peele goes into detail on how they were conceived in both the Making a Monster featurette as well as Tethered Together: Making Us Twice. I never realized that Red’s movements mimic those of a cockroach or that Jordan Peele considers Umbrae to be the scariest out of all of them. However, what I found truly fascinating was the amount of VFX work that went into filming two characters in the same scene. Peele goes on to explain that in order for them to achieve the look of the Wilson family and their now untethered counterparts, they had to do a lot of planning and a lot of scheduling and that the VFX was closely entwined with the narrative. This was followed up by dissection into the reasoning behind why the tethered are designed the way they are with the iconic red jumpsuits.
Outside of The Duality of Us, I also found the featurette Redefining a Genre to be very informative. Peele really takes the time to discuss the inspirations for his film and how he deals with his own fears through the horror genre. It’s clear that legendary director Alfred Hitchcock is a huge inspiration to Peele and the work he does, as is comedy, which he ties closely to the horror genre. This interview with Peele is one that is incredibly insightful and a reminder that he truly loves and appreciates the genre.
As with most home releases, there are deleted scenes which are rather hilarious as well as a scene exploration feature that gives commentary from Peele on three important scenes from the film. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not someone who typically checks out special features (I know, leave me alone I’m trying to get better at that), but I ate up every single feature that this film had to offer. What Peele has created with US is quite masterful and it only makes me more and more excited about what he has in store for us next. If you want to check out our full review of US, click here and make sure to pick a copy of the Blu-ray or DVD, now available in stores.