If all writer/director, Jordan Peele, did was make a simplistic horror film that exploited American racial tensions, that really could’ve been enough. As films from the black perspective are unfortunately rare in the realm of mainstream genre filmmaking (after all, they tend to be the first to go in films like these). What makes Peele’s directorial debut, Get Out, so special is that he doesn’t take the easy route, he doesn’t go after the obvious targets, and he chooses deeper into ideas about modern passive racism – especially among self-proclaimed progressives – that has so often been unexplored. This is where the film makes its mark, and really goes for the kill, and boy howdy, does it stick the landing.
Believe the hype, Get Out is absolutely 100% the real deal.
The film follows a young interracial couple, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose (Allison Williams), who drive out to meet Rose’s family at their estate. Everything seems fine at first, with some minor awkwardness, but things slowly reveal to be much more sinister than they appear. Chris finds himself confused and afraid of something bigger going on than he may realize, and feeling vulnerable as the only seemingly normal black man in the house.
It’s best to keep the details of a film like this vague because a lot of the fun comes out of seeing how Peele completely grabs the audience and plays them like a master, with each twist and turn coming at you like a punch to the face, leaving you dizzy, broken, and with a visceral thrill. My experience with a packed crowd is easily one of the more satisfying trips to the theater I’ve had in a very long time. It plays so well with an unsuspecting crowd.
Not only does it work for sheer entertainment value, but it also manages to be one of the ballsiest, political, and deceptively clever films to come out of the mainstream studio system (given that it’s produced by Blumhouse and distributed by Universal). Like I said, it doesn’t go for the easy targets, it doesn’t preach to the choir. It confronts white supremacy, not through the lens of rednecks, and overt prejudice, but through the lens of white liberals who see themselves as forward thinking, yet constantly use language with a baffling lack of perspective, understanding, or self-awareness. And with Peele utilizing a black point-of-view (which he captures so unapologetically), he manages to create scenarios that may play out as awkward in any other film, and brilliantly mutates it into a way of building tension and scares. Even as someone who has seen it all when it comes to horror, there were a handful of moments that made gave me the creeps.
But that’s not all! What’s oddly enough more impressive about this entire venture isn’t just how smart it is, or how it weaves through different tones, varying from wacky comedy to deep psychological horror, it’s how Peele constructs the entire thing with a very obvious – and well tuned – knowledge of cinematic language and film literacy. What I mean is, there’s obvious comparisons to be made to films like Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and The Stepford Wives, but the film knowingly takes cues and imagery from films like The Wicker Man, They Live, Being John Malkovich, among many, many others. You could even argue that it twists the structure and tropes that you often find in various American independent films that revolve around dysfunctional family get-togethers, which has been an all too common subject. However, it still feels fresh. It uses the familiar to create a new experience, applying a vast knowledge of audience familiarity to key ideas and images in cinema as a way to further inform and create empathy with the themes of the film. It’s the same level of literacy that make films by the likes of Quentin Tarantino and Edgar Wright such a joy to watch.
There’s so much to say about Get Out, but it would require getting into spoilers, and I’m sure many – more talented – people will be writing about the sheer skill and depth involved within the coming days and weeks. What Jordan Peele pulls off here is no small feat, and the fact that he is able to craft something with such a level of precision, a focus in vision, sense of control, and nuanced understanding of touchy, but relevant themes, in his first outing as both director and writer is simply astounding. This is one people will be talking about for a long time, and deservedly so, and not just the year’s end with everyone making their best of 2017 list. It isn’t often we get films that can blend such perfectly in-tune performances, a wicked sense of humor, and a masterclass in genre filmmaking, with a thoughtful, satirical edge. Don’t miss out on this one!