You might have an idea of the general direction GET OUT is heading in, but few will guess how far down this deep and murky thematic rabbit hole writer-director Jordan Peele will take us. This is a horror film for our time, about our time.
Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is in a happy relationship with Rose (Allison Williams) and thinks nothing of spending a weekend with her parents on their rural estate. But very quickly it becomes clear that the awkwardness of Rose not telling her parents that her new boyfriend is black is the least of Chris’s worries…
Get Out an effective little suspense/horror movie but it’s also a cutting thesis on being black in America today. As a white viewer with a moral compass, you’re taken from extreme almost CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM-esque awkwardness to complete abject horror and everything in-between, and I would imagine the experience would be even more hard-hitting for black viewers. You’ll be biting your hand to stifle cries of discomfort at Rose’s extended family’s attempts to clumsily woo Chris, and you continue to gnaw through your fist as Chris’s situation becomes a waking nightmare and creeping dread and sinister revelations give way to torture and revenge violence. For every person who commits blatant and violent acts of extreme prejudice you have someone who aims to please, to prove their non-judgemental nature by pandering (unconsciously or not) and thereby proving that they do care about race, because their conversation track is changing to accommodate it. It is in depicting these different faces of ingrained racism that Get Out shows its strongest hand.
Daniel Kaluuya – still mostly unknown in the USA unless you remember him from SICARIO, considerably more recognisable if you watch TV in the UK – is a star in the making. It takes some talent to play the uncomfortable tangle of emotions Chris is struggling with and to still play it low-key. Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford do creepy well and Allison Williams, well, just watch the film.
It’s telling that a TSA agent (Lil Rel Howery) is presented as a hero in this story over the police, such is the toxic public perception of law enforcers and race relations. Because after all he’s been through, why on Earth would Chris call the cops for help? When this Rod does appeal to his uniformed fellows’ sense of duty to help him search for Chris, he is laughed out of the office. Our stomachs drop at the sight and sound of a siren towards the end of the film, a noise that should inspire hope but has become a dread sign for so many.
Many will be more on board with the slow build-up of the film, the sinister-but-you’re-not-sure-why underbelly of a certain portion of society. Others will be put off by the ending, where things get weirder and far more extreme in terms of imagery and ideas. I liked pretty much all of it, especially the weirder stuff. The story gets a bit scrappy (but still bold) in the final stretch, and some of the characters are too broad and cartoony for the tone of the wider piece, but these are pretty much my only criticisms.
While I don’t think you can tar everybody with the same brush, it seems increasingly clear that racism in all forms is a deeply-rooted problem in American society, even if has become almost Freudian in some circles. If some viewers struggle to process, understand or (bafflingly) fail to sympathise with news coverage of American race-driven police brutality and racism of all stripes, it could be down to film and television to tell this story in a way that connects through entertainment. Just as the last couple of years has year has given us projects as far-ranging as STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON and ZOOTOPIA to discuss these hot-button issues, Get Out will likely end up as one of the most significant films of 2017 and the decade. Peele has produced a biting, brutal thriller-chiller that couldn’t feel more chillingly relevant. SSP