Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Marcus Henderson, Betty Gabriel, Lakeith Stanfield, Stephen Root, Lil Rel Howery, Geraldine Singer, Richard Herd, Erika Alexander.
Director: Jordan Peele
Rating: R (for violence, bloody images, and language including sexual references.)
Running Time: 103 Minutes
Release Date: February 24, 2017
Blumhouse Productions, QC Entertainment, and Universal Pictures.
Written by: Jordan Peele.
Jordan Peele‘s directorial debut, Get Out, radiates brilliance. It is a fearless, ambitious, bold psychological suspense/horror film that balances deft comedy flourishes with palpable intensity, moments of honest psychological horror and great suspense. Quite simply, he has delivered one of the finest debut films of recent memory.
The buzz grew massive in January when Get Out debuted at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. People raved about it and Universal Pictures responded accordingly, rushing it into theaters to capitalize on the buzz with what is essentially a soft weekend for new movies. You have to understand, the movie calendar for the first quarter of most years is full of studio rejects, mistakes, and Oscar-contending carryovers from the previous fall. Potential “Best Film of the Year” contenders never arrive this early, and certainly not from the major studios.
Moreover, Get Out is just exceptionally well made in every way. Peele takes his scant $5 million budget and creates a different type of horror film than audiences will be expecting. Serving up an outlandish and exaggerated premise, commonplace with domestic horror films, he slowly turns the camera around on us, the viewers, forcing us to ask difficult questions about our perceptions and values, allowing us to openly wonder why we are reacting and responding to the images and developments he sets before us.
The late author and journalist Molly Ivins once wrote that “satire is traditionally the weapon of the powerless against the powerful,” and Peele wields his weaponry (a pen, a camera, a voice) with such precision-like skill that it may take a minute before you realize everything he has placed in front of you.
We open with a young 20-something interracial couple, Chris and Rose (Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams), dating four months. The time has come for Chris to “meet the parents” and he is a little nervous. Rose assures him things will be fine and while he tries to believe her, he cannot help but ask, half-joking, half-seriously: “Do your parents even know I’m black?” Rose brings him in close and mentions that her parents would vote for Obama for a third term if they could, so there is truly nothing to worry about.
Chris may have his doubts, but he loves Rose and gladly makes the trip, encouraged to meet Missy and Dean Armitage (Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford), and spend a couple days on vacation. A popular photographer, he brings along a camera, and Rose plans on catching up on some family time. Rose’s twitchy and overbearing brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones) arrives for dinner and we learn that he has a love of jiu-jitsu and the martial arts. Also, we learn that Missy is an in-home psychiatrist with an emphasis on hypnosis and Dean works as a neurosurgeon.
Plans for a quiet, relaxing weekend are quickly jettisoned when Rose is reminded that their visit coincides with an annual friends-and-family get-together the Armitages host at their palatial estate every year. Rose apologizes, Chris simply takes it all in stride.
Revealing too much more would give away much of what makes Get Out so much fun, but it should be mentioned that the Armitages have two employees – a groundskeeper Walter (Marcus Henderson) and a maid Georgia (Betty Gabriel) – both black. They also act abnormally, Georgia engages in long stares and delayed, vacant responses, while Walter has a clumsy intensity that causes unease whenever Chris interacts with him.
Okay, I’ll stop there. Truly saying more about Get Out will ruin your experience of seeing everything Peele has in store for you.
Get Out is not going to terrify you in a conventional horror film way. Universal is selling that movie to you and that is simply not what this is. Though suspenseful, Peele shares a personalized sense of horror, some will have never experienced. We have a film which paints a vivid and distinct snapshot of what it means to be black in a supposed “post-racial” America.
When the dinner party guests arrive, Chris tries to assimilate, but the unspoken dialogue leads to everyone knowing he is “The Black Guy.” Peele reminds us that this never goes away and that every time a person of color walks out in public, they inherently know someone is noticing and watching them, analyzing their physical differences. Peele’s ability to call out “post-racial America” as a lie is going to anger some of you, make you defensive, and possibly even lead you to defend your privilege, whether you are aware of it or not.
Another quote comes to mind from British author Aldous Huxley: “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”
Sure, Get Out will not give you much in the way of jump scares, but it truly is a psychological horror film. It is also quite funny at times and keenly aware of the world it exists in. For some moviegoers, these simple observations will cut far too deep and close to the quick to be heard. And the fact that Peele makes us confront our beliefs is something no one is likely expecting when they sit down for a fun, little February horror film.
The cast is terrific up and down the card, with a movie-stealing turn by comedian Lil Rel Howery as Chris’ best friend Rod. He serves as a crucial balancing act in the film’s final act, allowing us to catch our breath for a moment, as Peele accelerates his story to the finish line and delivers one of the most satisfying final scenes I have seen in a long time.
Get Out is going to shake people up. Come for the horror, stay for the horror of reality. We hear all the time how horror films are a reflection of society at large, and people bend over backwards finding ways to defend and elevate the genre, giving it depth and meaning.
Peele walks the walk and if you can’t hear the message, perhaps you haven’t been listening.
SHOULD I SEE IT?
- Easily securing a spot somewhere on my Best of 2017 list.
- Get Out is not what audiences are expecting, one of the more surprising films of recent memory and a true arrival for Jordan Peele as a filmmaker and storyteller.
- I cannot wait to see this again and share this and debate it with people after they see it opening weekend.
- With a legit 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, with nearly 130 reviews as of this writing, I have to grasp at some straws here. So, I dunno, you simply have a rule to not watch R-rated movies.
- The idea of a black filmmaker making a film about race relations from his or her perspective makes you inherently uncomfortable?
- Honestly, there’s one more reason I could type here. But, I will not say it out loud. Just see Get Out. Experience it. Talk about it. Debate it. Just see it.