Studio: Universal Pictures
Director: Jordan Peele
Writer: Jordan Peele
Producer: Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Edward H. Hamm Jr., Jordan Peele
Stars: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Stephen Root, Lakeith Stanfield, Catherine Keener, Lil Rey Howery, Betty Gabriel
A man visiting his girlfriend’s parents for the first time suspects the surrounding community is hiding a terrible secret.
“Get Out” is commonly compared to “The Stepford Wives” because of its broadly similar setup involving an outsider suspicious of a community eerily eager to conform to robotic submissiveness. That shoe fits. The better parallel between the two is that in the way “The Stepford Wives” was a timely tease of dated gender stereotypes, “Get Out” tackles regressive racial roles in the same form of a culturally conscious thriller styled as outstanding suspense entertainment.
Being the first black man brought home to meet mom and dad, Chris Washington is understandably apprehensive about spending a weekend with his girlfriend Rose Armitage’s privileged white family. Chris’ concern grows into abject fear as he comes to believe the strange things he sees at Armitage Manor involve an explanation running deeper than the color of his skin.
The black housekeeper and gardener behave like odd automatons. White family friends are a brand of peculiar Chris can’t quite pinpoint. Then there is the family’s weird insistence that Chris undergo hypnosis to kick his cigarette addiction.
Whatever is happening, Chris’ instincts are right to be alarmed. The mystery he is at the center of is even more threatening than it appears. And it may be too late for escape to be an option.
Few movies handle details top to bottom as well as “Get Out.” The film makes many statements, one of which is to never doubt that a first-time feature filmmaker with a background predominantly in comedy can craft a tense, terrifying stunner.
The ensemble cast is expertly tuned and smart scripting creates all the right connections of chemistry through charming banter, not meaningless blather. The premise demands precise presentation of facial expressions and movements, requiring actors to massage mood through performance and then turn it in an instant. From top-billed stars to truly every single supporting player, everyone is in step with this vision. That traces straight back to confident direction from Jordan Peele in knowing exactly what he means to express onscreen as well as how to achieve it.
Combining simpler positions angled in specific directions with complicated choreography like the opening shot, cinematography takes each scene an extra step for heightened uneasiness. The camera complements production design in ways that blur the dual layers to the movie’s world, mirroring Chris’ perplexed perception and injecting visualizations of his anxiety directly into the audience’s eyes.
What’s remarkable about the way “Get Out” creates horror is how carefully it considers cause and effect. Often in scenarios where someone has to convince someone else of something implausible, the audience rolls eyes and momentum stalls while waiting for characters to catch up. Think of a movie where multiple murders involve blood drained from neck bites and the resident rational voice isn’t willing to consider vampires as a possibility because the suggestion is too outrageous.
“Get Out” plays these pieces differently. When Chris notices that his phone is unplugged and prevented from charging for a second time, that’s one more nail in the coffin where we’ve already confirmed something is deeply troubling. But that’s not a clue you can take to an objective mind and convince of a conspiracy out of context.
That’s what is brilliant about the way “Get Out” builds the madness of its mystery. Chris can see it, but he can’t communicate it, and we see and feel that conflict.
The overall puzzle is in the open to be put together, yet the nuances to how that information is delivered make the rising tensions resonate. Lesser movies miss this mark when they try to outsmart an audience or become burdened with bumpy exposition in order to progress to better scenes.
“Get Out” knows its concept is somewhat absurd. Peele gets away with it by detouring to his wheelhouse with comic relief. Chris’ buddy Rod provides that purpose while simultaneously juxtaposing different channels for how Chris relates to Rod versus how Chris relates Rose. These humorous moments are well-timed, so are the pop scares that pump blood while the plot idles in development mode, for moments when air needs to be let out or rhythm requests a brief bump.
“Get Out” releases in a divisive climate where dissenters may be quick to condemn it for an agenda it doesn’t actually have. Metaphorical meaning is certainly present, whether the parallels are in a glib monologue about too many undesirable “deer” in the world or “black” mold rotting the house. At the same time, “Get Out” concerns race relations to a comparable degree as “It Follows” (review here) does sex. Which is to say that ultimately, it is up to each individual to choose to take the material as sizzling social commentary, purely horror entertainment, or some combination of both.
“Get Out” is an impeccable balance of self-aware satire, subtext, and suspense, and the viewer is invited to take as much or as little from each bucket to fashion a practically personally tailored experience. This is a rare chameleon quality for any movie to have, and a testament to how well “Get Out” works as an enjoyable thriller, and how essential it is as a capsule of contemporary culture.
Review Score: 90