Movie Review: Us. A post-left hot-take

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anon (not verified)
Movie Review: Us. A post-left hot-take

Spoiler alert: Revolutions are pipe dreams.

I’ll be using the wikipedia plot summary as a guide. Excerpts from wikipedia will be in between brackets “[...]”.

[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 is unable to speak.]

What the plot summary doesn’t say is that the first scene is a commercial (not exactly this one , but you get the idea) for “Hands Across America” ( “Hands Across America was a public event on Sunday, May 25, 1986, in which approximately 6.5 million people held hands for fifteen minutes in an attempt to form a continuous human chain across the contiguous United States. Many participants donated ten dollars to reserve their place in line. The proceeds were donated to local charities to fight hunger and homelessness and help those in poverty.”). The supposed main character, Adelaide Thomas (which is really “Red” as we find out in the end), is supposed to be the one watching the commercial on the TV. This was her inspiration for the particular way she organized the revolt of the “Tethered”, as shown at the end of the movie.

[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 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.]

Okay, so that man standing alone with blood in his hands is already standing to form the human chain-link fence. You can see that this revolutionary already has blood in his hands. But to what end? We’ll find out soon enough! But first I’d like to mention another important fact left out in the wikipedia plot summary; before the movie starts, a black screen with white text as exposition mentions that there is a mysterious tunnel system under the United States of America, specially under the beaches. Therefore, we’re already primed to suspect that the man with blood on his hands came from the underground.

[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. Red explains that the doppelgängers are called the Tethered, that they share a soul with their counterparts, and that they have come to "untether" themselves.]

Okay, so now is where they begin their campaign of revolutionary terror. They literally terrorize, in horror movie trope fashion, their doppelgänger counterparts and attempt to murder them in order to liberate themselves from them.

[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.]

Right, so basically the “Red” and the “Tethered” attempt to kill the bourgeoisie in their vacation homes. One of the families escapes, the other one dies.

[Meanwhile, the Tyler family is murdered by their Tethered. 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.]

So here’s the big reveal, it’s not an isolated event, they’re rising up all across the nation, literally hand in hand, in a coordinated attack against those who literally “rule from above”. Okay, now I’ll dump the rest of the plot summary, and finish the hot-take after it.

[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, and Adelaide runs 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 that the Tethered were clones created by the United States government in order to control the public. The experiment failed and the Tethered were abandoned underground for generations, mindlessly copying the actions of their surface counterparts, 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 by making a surprise counter of her own, then choking her. 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, "Adelaide" choked "Red" unconscious, damaging her vocal cords, drags her underground, handcuffs her to a bed, and takes her place in the surface world, revealing why she couldn't speak after being found. Jason, possibly knowing this puts his mask on while being terrified of this revelation. As the Wilsons drive off, the camera pulls back to show that the Tethered have joined hands across the country with news helicopters and their crew filming the human chain from above.]

So it’s revealed that the “Red” is actually the real Adelaide who came from above in 1986, and switched places with the “Adelaide” we came to know throughout the whole movie which was in fact her tethered counterpart. So now we can interpret the whole movie based on this knowledge.

The “Red” came from the “upper” class to organize those “down” below with her knowledge of “theory” which amounted to nothing more than elementary school literacy, plus a half-remembered advertisement from television. She brought down with her ideology of humanitarian aid through a spectacular mass event, and organized those in the “underground” (literally) through her ability of speech (literally, since the Tethered could not speak, nor write, nor draw, but we can imagine the parallel with oratory or charismatic rhetoric of leaders, organizers, mobilizers, instigators, activists etc).

After long decades of planning and organizing they execute their childish plan, and they were successful! Everything went how they planned! But what did holding hands across America accomplish? The last shot is of all of them holding hands as a human fence while black helicopters fly above them. Were they rapidly quelled by the army and mowed down by machine gun fire? We can only speculate, since the movie ends right there (But honestly, the Tethered don’t stand a chance. They are basically unarmed, they all have scissors, which are basically principally symbolic. Like ak-47’s in many liberation movements, and Zapatistas with wooden rifles that don’t work and are just for marching and posing with.).

But what we do know is the following, the “Red” is defeated by “Adelaide”, the Tethered doppelgänger which decided to do whatever it took to get to the “upper class” and switched places. She started from the bottom, and now at the top she’s willing to kill all the Tethered it takes to maintain her place up top, even her own children and husband underground Tethered versions.

So what are the lessons we can learn from this forced post-left reading hot-take? Revolutions spill blood in the name of a gesture which amounts to a absurdly massive horrifying and disturbing symbolic art performance, which accomplishes a spectacular advertisement campaign on a national scale that will be completely lost on the horrified onlookers who just want to maintain their place in the status quo. In addition, revolutionary leaders are childish naive resented pedagogues with a personal vendetta, and will throw hordes under the bus (or under helicopter machine gun fire) just to get their personal payback.

Reaching, I know.

What movies do ya’ll have a hot take on?

anon (not verified)
interesting... i was struck

interesting... i was struck mostly by the tethered as both an image of slavery/carcerality and as a fable about bios and zoe, and the threshold of the 'pretendian' funhouse, a representation of foundational genocide. i also thought it was huge, and they even pretty explicitly called it out when, if we think of the tethered as a 'shadow side' then the white family dying instantly and being replaced by their evil doppelgangers is like wypipo going full evil racist when crisis hits while the main family's reaction shows how struggle breeds its own strength, knowledge, ethics... or something?? idk but i loved this movie and im not a big horror person. love jp. larb had a great piece on this movie:

i dont know if i have any particularly hot takes on game of thrones (other than i actually liked the last season?? although it should have been longer) but i want to hear some. as long as it's nothing like that atlantic piece on how "feudalism is bad actually"

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