Get Out (2017) Universal/Horror-Thriller RT: 103 minutes Rated R (violence, bloody images, language including sexual references) Director: Jordan Peele Screenplay: Jordan Peele Music: Michael Abels Cinematography: Toby Oliver Release date: February 24, 2017 (US) Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Marcus Henderson, Betty Gabriel, Lakeith Stanfield, Stephen Root, Lil Rel Howery, Erika Alexander.
Going to meet a girlfriend’s parents for the first time has never been so unnerving or freaky as it is for the protagonist in Get Out, a genuinely suspenseful horror-thriller from first-time director Jordan Peele of the comedy duo Key & Peele. The scenario is made even tenser by the fact that Chris (Kaluuya, Sicario) is black and his girlfriend Rose (Williams, Girls) is white. He asks if they know he’s black and she assures him they’ll be okay with it. They’re liberals, she tells him. If Obama could have run for a third term, her father would have voted for him again. With a pitch like that, there has to be something rotten in the state of Connecticut. There is.
Upon arriving at her family’s estate, he’s warmly greeted by her father Dean (Whitford, The West Wing) and mother Missy (Keener, The 40-Year-Old Virgin). From the word go, Chris senses something is wrong. Dad seems to be trying too hard to ingratiate himself to Chris, even adopting his vernacular when he gives him a tour of the house which reeks of white upper-crust affluence. Mom, a psychiatrist, appears too eager to cure him of his smoking habit through hypnosis. Rose’s older brother Jeremy (Jones, X-Men: First Class) asks uncomfortable questions that barely conceal his racism. Then there are the black servants, groundskeeper Walter (Henderson, Django Unchained) and housemaid Georgina (Gabriel, The Purge: Election Year). There’s definitely something strange about their behavior.
Is Chris just being paranoid or is there something sinister going on? It could be that he’s overreacting to the normal racial tensions that naturally occur in situations like this. At a party thrown by Rose’s parents, he has odd conversations with some of the guests including a blind art dealer (Root, Office Space) who admires Chris’ work as a photographer. He also encounters another black person (Stanfield, Atlanta) who strikes him as familiar for some reason. When he tries to take his picture on his iPhone, the man loses it.
That’s all I’m going to tell you about the plot. I will say that while I knew something freaky was happening, I didn’t know exactly what nor would I ever have guessed it. Get Out is a remarkable directorial debut for Peele. He doesn’t reveal his hand too early as many experienced filmmakers tend to do with thrillers. He takes a cue from M. Night Shyamalan with his slow-build to the shock-you-out-of-your-seat climax. It’s only after the fact that you realize he dropped a few bread crumbs along the way. Like The Sixth Sense, it commands a second viewing.
As a thriller, Get Out is very effective. It has a Rosemary’s Baby/Stepford Wives vibe to it. But there’s more to it than that. It’s also a commentary on racism among white liberals in America. Peele isn’t afraid to call certain types- i.e. those who bend over backwards to claim they’re not racists but really are- out on their BS. It’s a bold move on his part to include such a statement in a genre picture. It gives Get Out a satirical edge. It’s definitely not your standard February horror movie.
The acting in Get Out is particularly strong. Kaluuya is a fine leading man. Chris is affable but cautious. He wants to believe Rose when she tells him he has nothing to worry about but deep down knows that there will be issues. He’s fearful of being surrounded by so many white people in a place (a posh lily-white neighborhood) he clearly doesn’t belong. It turns out he has every reason to be afraid. Williams is also good as Rose who tries to allay her boyfriend’s increasing paranoia by convincing him he’s misreading certain situations. Is she that blind to everybody’s racist ideals? Peele makes excellent use of Whitford and Keener. He gives their characters a palpable sense of menace to go along with their amiable surfaces. In addition, comedian Lil Rel Howery (The Carmichael Show) provides nice comic relief as Chris’ best friend Rod, a TSA agent convinced that all white people want black sex slaves.
I like that Peele stays on point throughout Get Out. He gets his point across without sermonizing. He also doesn’t let it get in the way of the story’s thriller aspect. It’s a taut, intelligent, well-written and well-constructed film that gives the viewer pause to think about how race plays into certain situations. It also has a few nice jump scenes. As a horror flick, it’s legit. It keeps you off-guard the whole time. The bloody climax is especially cool. It has some nice visuals too. It’s a bit rough around the edges and the tone isn’t always consistent but it’s good enough a movie that such things can be overlooked. It’s the movie to see this weekend.