During a trip to meet his girlfriend’s parents for the first time, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) finds himself in familiar territory. He is black, and Rose (Allison Williams) and her parents are white. He knows how to smile, nod, and feign courtesy at well meaning, but insensitive remarks. However, as the weekend wears on, he finds he may be in over his head. The only other black people he encounters seem removed in some way. Eventually, everything comes to light and Chris must get out and fight for his survival.
Jordan Peele Arrives
Horror is an inherently political genre. It is able to abstract our societal fears into something otherworldly and address the elephant in the room. Most of these films are released at the height of a movement. For example, Rosemary’s Baby coincided with the women’s liberation movement. So it should come as no surprise that Jordan Peele’s Get Out comes in the midst of Black Lives Matter. However, these “social thrillers” cannot get overly preachy. Even the most seasoned filmgoers are resistant to having an agenda shoved in their face for over two hours. First and foremost, they have to be entertaining. It’s a difficult needle to thread. But, first-time director Jordan Peele accomplishes the feat with ease.
Get Out works. Not just as a piece of social commentary. It is an all-time horror classic that will be taught in film school for decades. Peele proved a brilliant deconstructionist on Key & Peele. But here, he uses his understanding of the building blocks of a genre to flip conventions on their head while simultaneously hitting the essential beats of horror storytelling. This is the calling card of a director who is ready for his seat at the table. Of course, directing the heck out of a feature means nothing without a cast to back up the material.
British actor Daniel Kaluuya dons a flawless American accent and plays Chris with unending relatability. His expressive eyes capture every awkward feeling, moments of panic, and everything in-between. Without giving too much away, those eyes are likely a major reason why he was cast in the role. Allison Williams has great chemistry with everyone in the cast and serves as the perfect support system for Chris. It may not seem like she has much to do on the surface, but re-watching the film may reveal otherwise. LilRey Howery is about to become a major star. He provides the film a lot of levity and is edited into the story to let the air out of the tension perfectly. And, rounding out the cast, Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener are more than willing to play in this world. Much of the unease and social commentary comes through them and they gracefully accept the responsibility.
Speaking of the social commentary, Get Out may not portray the type of racism audiences expect to see on film. It’s devoid of the confederate flag waving, good ole boy “we don’t take kindly to folks like you ’round these parts” white people. Instead, Get Out aims squarely at racism from mostly upper-class, liberal white people. The types of people who are a little too eager to talk about how much they love black people and would have voted for Obama for a third term. The white people in Get Out take a little too kindly to folks like Chris and that’s where the main conflict lies. But, Peele’s story isn’t anti-white. He simply wants to make a compelling horror film that uses the issue of race as a jumping off point.
No film is perfect. And while Get Out is enthralling it can run a little long. The middle of the second act can feel a bit like it is spinning its wheels. Spending time with these characters is great, but it would be nice to keep the story momentum going. Also, Caleb Landry Jones is playing a very specific type of menace that seemed a little out of place. However, Peele uses him sparingly.
Final Thoughts on Get Out
Get Out is a movie audiences and filmmakers can learn a lot from. Walking out of the theater felt like a game-changing moment for the horror genre. However, when films like that come along, people tend to learn the wrong lessons. I have a feeling that Get Out will spawn a litany of “social thrillers” of varying quality. But, Jordan Peele delivers an absolute master class in filmmaking techniques and could be one of the most vital directors of his generation. In addition, the young cast seems poised to blow-up in the coming years. Get Out is absolutely worth your time as a compelling horror-thriller and conversation piece.