Film Review – Get Out
Jordan Peele – best known as a member of the sketch comedy shows MADtv and Key and Peele – has delivered one of the most suspenseful, insightful, and downright entertaining horror films of the year. Correction: this isn’t just a good horror film – this is a good film, period. Made of his own design (he wrote the script and makes his directorial debut), Peele satirizes racial stereotypes in equally scary and hilarious ways. He makes no wrong moves: every stylistic choice, camera angle, and character motivation is right on the money. Even when things delve further into morbid and disturbing areas, the narrative flows so easily that we find ourselves laughing one minute and then on the edge of our seats in the very next scene.
What makes Get Out work so well is how Peele shows us the perspective of a minority surrounded by the majority. When a person of color (in this case: a black person) enters a situation filled with people unlike their own race (in this case: white people), there’s that unspoken tension – perhaps even on a subconscious level – of being judged because of what they look like. We’re all aware of the outspoken/cross burning racism, but there’s also the casual style of discrimination that is still very prominent today. The comments that are supposedly meant to be compliments but are actually insulting; filled with condescension and ignorance. Comments like, “Oh, you’re so strong, you should be an athlete!” or “You like golf? I love Tiger Woods!”
That’s the environment Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) finds himself in when he travels with his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) to visit her parents at their wooded estate. At first, the awkwardness between Chris and Rose’s parents (Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener) is the kind a boyfriend would get when meeting his significant other’s family. The social faux pas are initially brushed off as innocent misunderstandings, such as when Rose’s father tries speaking in Ebonics or mentions how he would’ve voted Barack Obama for a third presidential term. But things start getting weird when Chris notices some unusual happenings around the property, like how all of the servants are black and act like they came out of The Stepford Wives. When the family has a social gathering of friends to the house, all the attendees look at him with curious eyes.
If this were just an examination of the unspoken nature of racial dynamics, Peele would have accomplished his goal. The cinematography (Toby Oliver) captures the strangeness of these people through Chris’ viewpoint. When Chris has a conversation with the family maid Georgina (Betty Gabriel), the camera pushes in just a hair too close, amplifying the notion that not everything is as hunky dory as it seems. Much of Daniel Kaluuya’s performance relies on his ability to react to what he sees. He’s always glancing around, seeing things from the corner of his eye. Even though he is in a place that is open and not crowded, Peele and his team give the sense of growing claustrophobia the more ostracized Chris starts to feel.
Soon enough, things devolve into horror territory. I dare not mention what happens, so as not to spoil any of the surprises. What I will say is that Peele has a distinct vision when portraying a person’s thoughts and emotions. He showcases a knack for staging a psychological highpoint; using allegory to bring home what his characters are going through. There’s a recurring sequence – which I’ll only describe as a kind of a dream – that’s ambitious, startling, and in its own twisted way, beautiful. It contrasts against the gritty realism of everything else we see, but it works because it’s anchored by character development. Sure, we get the blood and guts that is the standard of the genre, but it’s this repeating dream sequence that shows how confident Peele is in his chosen themes.
Of all the revelations we get from Get Out, one of the biggest is how funny it is. Despite all of the serious subjects Peele focuses on, he is a comedian, and he gives ample opportunity to give us some big laughs. Some come from Chris simply reacting to what’s happening around him, with a facial expression that screams, “What the &^%$ is going on around here?” The central point of comedic relief comes from, without question, LilRel Howery, playing Rod, Chris’s best friend. As things go from bad to worse, Chris communicates with Rod over his cell phone. Rod serves like an extension of the audience, telling Chris exactly what we’re thinking, namely: get the hell out of there! Howery delivers the goods in every scene he’s in, working as a nice change of pace from all the craziness happening with the main characters.
Get Out has such a nice blend of differing elements. It can work as a suspense thriller, a horror comedy, or as a launching point for a deeper social conversation. Jordan Peele layers his narrative with an assured hand; it’s obvious that this has brewed in his head for a long time. He’s done what some filmmakers have failed to do: make a remarkable entertainment that also encourages us think outside of the box.