The Underground Railroad: Watch the Hypnotic, Reverse-Motion Trailer for Barry Jenkins' Amazon Adaptation

The Underground Railroad

Filmmaker Barry Jenkins on Monday released a mesmerizing trailer for his upcoming adaptation of The Underground Railroad — along with an explanation of why it plays in reverse.

“They say history is written by the victors, so… let’s run it back,” Jenkins said on Twitter. (He further discussed the reverse-motion trailer, which is embedded down below, with our sister site IndieWire.)

Based on the bestselling Colson Whitehead novel, The Underground Railroad tells the story of Cora (newcomer Thuso Mbedu), a young slave who is an outcast on her Georgia cotton plantation. When she hears about the Underground Railroad and its promise of freedom, she decides to risk her life and escape — only to uncover something most unexpected in her travels.

The adaptation, written and directed by Oscar winner Jenkins (Moonlight), earned a series order at Amazon almost four years ago.

“Going back to The Intuitionist, Colson’s writing has always defied convention, and The Underground Railroad is no different,” Jenkins said back then in a statement. “It’s a groundbreaking work that pays respect to our nation’s history while using the form to explore it in a thoughtful and original way. Preserving the sweep and grandeur of a story like this requires bold, innovative thinking, and in Amazon, we’ve found a partner whose reverence for storytelling and freeness of form is wholly in line with our vision.”

The Underground Railroad cast also includes William Jackson Harper (The Good Place) as Royal, a freeborn black man who meets Cora during her journey; Tony Award nominee Amber Gray (Broadway’s Hadestown) as Gloria, the daughter of a slave and a plantation owner/master; and Joel Edgerton (The Great Gatsby, Zero Dark Thirty) as a slave catcher named Ridgeway.