Get Out (2017) – Movie Review
Directed by: Jordan Peele
Written by: Jordan Peele
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener, Caleb Landry Jones & Lil Rel Howery
Music: Michael Abels
Release Date: March 17th 2017
When you think of horrific-social-thriller-based-on-21st-century-race-relations, the first name that comes to mind certainly wouldn’t be Jordan Peele. Peele, one half of the comedic duo Key & Peele, has made a name for himself in recent years as an off-beat comedic performer in movies like ‘Storks‘ and auteur comedy projects like ‘Keanu‘. So when it was announced that Jordan Peele would be writing, directing and producing a social-thriller with ‘Get Out‘ it seemed like such a drastic career change.
A few years ago a project like this likely would have never gotten off the ground but thanks to Blumhouse Productions, a company that is able to take risks due to their projects having such small production budgets yet are still insanely marketable, we find ourselves with ‘Get Out‘ being their most critically acclaimed movie since 2015’s ‘Whiplash‘ which became a “Best Picture” nominee. Is ‘Get Out‘ worthy of the hype and just what material can be mined from modern American race relations and turned into a horror? (Trick question; a LOT can be mined from that).
Chris Washington (Kaluuya) is a young black photographer who has recently started a relationship with a white woman named Rose Armitage (Williams), is going away with her for the weekend to meet the in-laws. While Rose’s father, Dean (Whitford) and mother, Missy (Keener) seem pleasant enough, something isn’t quite right. There are black housekeepers who are acting strangely and Rose’s family seem a bit TOO happy to have Chris there. Chris’s fears are soon realised as the true nature of his extended family are revealed and he has to fight for survival.
While ‘Get Out‘ is billing itself as a horror film and is coming from Blumhouse, a studio renowned for releasing low-budget horror movies, it feels like that would be underselling what ‘Get Out‘ is trying to do. Yes there are horror elements, there are also comedic elements (but this movie is NOT a horror, Hollywood Foreign Press Association) but what ‘Get Out‘ manages to absolutely nail is awkwardness. When Chris arrives at the Armitage household, there’s no KKK hoods, or burning crosses, or Nazi paraphernalia, or MAGA-hats but instead a nice, well-off family who seems to readily accept him. Dean says that he’d vote for Obama for a third term if possible, that some of his favourite actors and athletes are black and so on and so forth.
Yes, Chris seems to be accepted by his new in-laws but he’s still being treated as an other because of his skin colour. ‘Get Out‘ does an incredible job at depicting the awkwardness that can occur in social situations and it’s mainly because of a great casting of Daniel Kaluuya. The British Actor has gone under the radar in TV shows such as ‘Skins‘, ‘Doctor Who‘ and ‘Black Mirror‘ as well as supporting film roles in ‘Johnny English Reborn‘ and ‘Sicario‘ but with ‘Get Out‘ it feels like he’s truly “arrived” and he delivers a stellar performance here. He’s a down-to-earth likeable guy so he’s easy to root for, but he also feels reserved for good reason. On the drive to the family he and Rose are talking to law enforcement and you can see that he’s trying to remove himself from certain interactions. The same goes for when more family members arrive at a party and it’s clear that Chris has self-taught survival tactics to avoid confrontation.
Things like Chris’s awkward laughter, awkward pauses and silent reactions to some rather insensitive or outlandish statements help to make him a fully dimensional character and Kaluuya’s performance is one for the horror-movie ages, particularly when it comes to portraying the survivor’s guilt that he experienced in childhood. There’s a reason one of the most iconic images in the film’s promotional campaign is the shot of him crying with his eyes wide-open whilst being hypnotised.
The rest of the cast are great as well with Allison Williams giving an incredibly nuanced portrayal of Chris’s girlfriend Rose. Without getting into spoilers, Williams walks a tight-rope of making her actions over the course of the first half of the movie completely match what she does in the second half. We also have Bradley Whitford relishing his role as an all-encompassing patriarch of the Armitage Family, Catherine Keener is understated yet very unnerving and creepy whilst one of the other stand-out performances, oddly enough, comes from Lil Rey Howery as Chris’s friend Rod. Rod spends most of the movie cat-sitting at Chris’ apartment talking to him over the phone and he gets some of the funniest moments of the movie.
He essentially plays the “Black Audience Watching A Horror Movie” character who knows that Chris is in trouble and needs to get out, but isn’t able to do much to help as he’s only T.S.A. But Lil Rey’s inclusion helps to make the movie because ‘Get Out‘ goes into some very dark places and having Rey interject every so often helps to balance the movie and give the audience some form of release. It’s a terrific piece of screenwriting on Jordan Peele’s part and Lil Rey Howery could be described as the MVP of ‘Get Out‘.’
But the key reason that ‘Get Out‘ succeeds is its depiction of racism in contemporary America. Most movies that deal with race-relations take place in the past. Movies like ‘12 Years A Slave‘, ‘The Help‘, ‘Hidden Figures‘ and ‘Selma‘, despite their subject matter, can give the audience a sense of complacency in thinking that racism is a thing of the past. However with ‘Get Out‘ tackling the subject matter in the modern day it adds another layer of discomfort in acknowledging that racism is still alive and well and is still a major topic. In ‘Get Out‘ racism doesn’t entirely exist in the form of insults or violence but minor passive-aggressive behaviour, calling attention to his race and even thinking that Chris might be physically superior JUST because of the colour of his skin.
But Jordan Peele’s debut feature goes even further and tackles topic of white people who don’t see themselves as racist but still benefit from the system and will turn a blind eye (literally, in this case), how oppressed black people are silenced through the “Sunken Place”, the use of cell phone footage and pictures etc. Almost akin to an Edgar Wright movie, ‘Get Out‘ is incredibly re-watchable due to it packing in so many details in its dialogue and setting. The film also may not be conventionally scary, in that it doesn’t have many jump scares or gross-out moments, but it’s still horrific due to its ability to depict its subject matter so effectively and put you in the head-space of Chris (and by proxy the average Black American).
‘Get Out‘ does not come across like a film being done by a first-time director, yet here we are. Not only is its screenplay incredibly polished but its production works from top-to-bottom. The film’s use of colour (pun not intended), unsettling music and cinematography, clever costuming and make-up decisions, superb sound-design (the hypnosis scene alone is Oscar-worthy), the list goes on. ‘Get Out‘ was made for less than $5M but its production has been so well managed and co-ordinated that it has to be applauded. The film wears its visual and thematic influences (‘The Stepford Wives‘, ‘The Shining‘ and ‘Rosemary’s Baby‘) on its sleeve creating a very unique feeling horror movie.
‘Get Out‘ is a triumph of the horror genre with multi-layered themes, frequent laughs being interspersed with truly uncomfortable set-pieces. Jordan Peele’s command of balance propels ‘Get Out‘ into a truly exceptional movie-going experience with terrific acting (particularly from Daniel Kaluuya), great production values and a infinitely re-watchable and re-readable screenplay that asks many hard questions of its audience, even if they would consider themselves the furthest thing possible from racist. It’s a time-capsule of a movie that manages to embody the awkwardness, the insecurities and the horrors of being a black person in 2017 America.
Damn, white people. You scary.
I give ‘Get Out‘ 5 stars out of 5.
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Posted: 26th Apr 18