In 1986, young Adelaide Thomas vacations with her parents in Santa Cruz. At the beach, Adelaide wanders off and enters a hall of mirrors, where she encounters a doppelganger of herself and is traumatised by the experience. In the present day, a now adult Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o) comes back to their family’s beach house in Santa Cruz along with her husband Gabe Wilson (Winston Duke) and their children, Zora (Shahadi Wright) and Jason (Evan Alex). At night four intruders appear in their driveway. They turn out to be doppelgangers of Adelaide and her family. Only one of them, Red (Lupita Nyong’o) has the ability to speak. Red separates the family, and orders the doppelgangers to kill their counterparts. Meanwhile, she narrates how the creatures, whom she calls ‘the Tethered’ came about. Apparently, they are result of a failed experiment by the US government and left to fend for themselves in underground places. The Wilson family kills their doubles before escaping in a fire engine. But they realise the horrifying truth that ‘the Tethered’ have cropped up across America, killing surface dwellers at random, and have formed a human chain from coast-to-coast, mirroring the Hands Across America movement which took place in 1986 and raised awareness about homelessness…
The film is a homage to both the home invasion film sub genre, as well as the movies involving doubles as plot points. Body Snatchers (1993), is the film that it is most closely related to, as that too involved an experiment by the US government to replace people with identical body doubles willing to obey every rule without question. The film has enough twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat throughout and the Shyamalan-like surprise which comes at the end will make you savour the product even more. But even though it clicks every horror film trope, it’s much more than that at the same time. In his first outing as a director, Get Out (2017) Jordan Peele touched upon the exploitation of Blacks by the White race. Here, he raises questions about everything from the very nature of soul, the ethics of cloning, unregulated control by the government on its citizens, the rights of automatons, as also the suppression of the Black race. Other questions like — who exactly are the monsters? By killing the killers, aren’t we becoming just like them? Are humans bound towards self-destruction? — too get raised.
Amidst all this, the film’s plot suffers from many loose strands. We never get to satisfactorily know how and why did the doppelgangers got created? How are they able to mimic the action of their originals found above ground? If the doubles can’t speak, how did they organise a nation-wide protest, and for what purpose? Why did they have to kill the surface dwellers if all they wanted was a recognition of their existence? There are no answers found to such questions, unless a sequel is being planned.
A power-packed performance by Lupita Nyong’o, as both Adelaide and Red is the soul of the film. The way her expressions change, reflecting every situation, is a delight to watch indeed. Her bravura act is backed by some fine acting by the rest of the cast as well. All-in-all, one can say that Jordan Peele is fast becoming a master of suspense. Us will spook you and will also make you think. You’re sure to have heated discussions about its ending long after you’ve watched the film.
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