Social thrillers are hard to pull off. While, sure, there have been numerous genre films that have managed to satisfy as entertainment while still being potent allegory, there are exceedingly more instances where filmmakers get bogged down with their ideas, resulting in a half-baked execution (The Purge franchise, anyone?). For Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, however, the comedian has turned out an imaginative comedy-horror that’s socially prescient in an unpretentious manner and very often very well-made (albeit a little rough in its 3rd act). The film is Get Out, and it may have just become the first sleeper hit of the year.
A young African-American man named Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) finds himself on a trip to meet the parents of his white girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams). Upon coming to the rural town where her parents live, however, both our protagonist and we the viewers apprehend that this community has some seedy secret. Other black people in the town seem to have some robotic mannerisms to them, and Rose’s parents (and neighbors) seem all too interested in Chris’s physical attributes. Needless to say, Chris eventually finds himself in a fight for his life that may cost him both his freedom and his sanity.
It’s a simple premise for sure, but it’s also an ideal base for Jordan Peele to kick off his career as a film director. Anyone that’s seen any of the sketches that he directed for Key and Peele can ascertain that he has an understanding of the cinematic language and certainly knows all the right influences. So, it’s no surprise that Get Out manages to impress right from the very first scene, which is a single long shot of an anonymous black man going about his business who suddenly gets kidnapped by an unseen assailant. Peele shows here that he knows exactly where to put the camera to mount tension and insert the action at just the right moment.
That initial scene gives us a foreboding feeling of what’s to come, but the film is most laudable for how it’s just as scary as it is funny (often simultaneously). During Chris’s stay at Rose’s parents house, we witness some really nuanced builds of character and even some highly visceral dream sequences that make the utmost use of the film’s sound effects and visual spectrum. To say too much about these scenes would be spoiling the fun, I’m afraid, but I will say that this movie may very well make you double-take the next time you see someone twirling a spoon around the inside of a teacup.
Peele also cast a fine set of actors for Get Out. British actor Daniel Kaluuya—a 27-year-old that’s made a name for himself in several UK TV series like Skins and Black Mirror—proves to be a perfect fit for Chris, who is able to communicate on his character’s bewildered state while still being palpable as an action hero. Allison Williams, co-star of HBO’s Girls, also makes an impressive turn for her first feature-length role, particularly when the character’s true colors show. Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford are fabulous as Rose’s parents and more delectable than excessive with their underlying menace. Also of note (and making his feature-film debut as well) is comedian Lil Rey Howery, acting as Chris’s trusty friend and confidant, who happens to lead most of the film’s hilarious and cheer-inducing moments and will hopefully have many other great roles to come.
If there’s one disappointment with Get Out, it would be the film’s ending. While the film was inevitably driving towards Chris’s escape from the community, the writing in this portion doesn’t match the quality of the buildup. Chris’s escape is a little too convenient (with a plot device that doesn’t entirely make sense), and even his “surprise” save comes off as a mite bit predictable. Still, similar to Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, Get Out gratifies audiences by showcasing its black protagonist achieving brutal retribution, and both screenings I’ve gone to for this film ended in an eruption of applause.
So yes, Get Out is an all-around solid picture and a colossal success for a number of players that are just making their entrance into Hollywood. While there are certain to be many people that see Get Out as a doctrine for the current political air hanging over America, the fact is the film’s thematic material has been relevant in American society for an eternity. Though the film is hardly complex, it’s tangible in a way that should disturb some folk and hopefully insight discussion and enlighten the unaware (right after you talk about how cool and bloody the kill shots were, of course).
Peter Foy is an avid reader and movie buff, constantly in need to engage his already massive pop-culture lexicon.