**Minor spoilers for “Get Out” are in this review, so please go see the film before reading!**
4.5 out of 5 stars.
“Get Out” is a master class in horror filmmaking, made all the more impressive by the fact that it is the feature film directing and screenwriting debut of Jordan Peele, formerly one half of the comedy team Key and Peele. It’s entertaining, sure, but Peele takes his story of a black man visiting his white girlfriend’s family and turns it into a biting satire of race relations in America.
Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), is a Brooklyn photographer who has been dating his girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) for almost five months. They decide it’s time for him to meet her family, and plan a trip to their suburban home by the lake for the weekend. Chris is black. Rose is white, and her family lives in an upper-middle-class white area. Rose plays it off as no big deal, but Chris has concerns.
This is just the beginning of the awareness Chris shows regarding his place in the world as a black man. He is a victim before the creepy weird horror movie stuff starts to go down. He is a victim in everyday life. He presses Rose about her parents, wanting to know if they know that he’s black. When a deer hits their car, the police officer they call asks for his ID, even though Rose was the one driving. Rose is infuriated, but Chris is obliging; he’s come to expect this.
When they arrive at the Armitage home, it’s almost immediately apparent that something is off, despite the warm greetings of Rose’s parents Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy (Catherine Keener) toward Chris. They seem to be overcompensating for Chris’s sake; they’re not stuffy white conservatives, they’re liberals who would have voted for Obama for a third term if they could have. They have a black housemaid and groundskeeper, both of whom are very polite, but in an unnaturally cold and distant manner—Dean acknowledges to Chris that he hates the way it looks. Chris politely goes along with their behavior, even though it isn’t any better than the police officer who almost interrogated him on the side of the road.
Dean is a neurosurgeon, and Missy is a psychiatrist who uses hypnotism to treat her patients. She hypnotizes Chris under the pretense that it is to get him to quit smoking, but the weirdness of his surroundings only seems to increase after that, especially at a large party attended by all of the Armitage’s wealthy, older, white neighbors. They behave toward Chris the same way as the Armitage’s do (a polite conversation about golf ends with an older man insisting how big a fan he is of Tiger Woods). It’s simultaneously comical and unsettling, and it’s here especially where the plot starts to thicken.
But as interesting as the final reveal is when we finally learn what’s going on, this movie is more about the journey to that point. Peele does a remarkable job creating tension, revealing just the right amount of information at a time to keep viewers intrigued. It all starts with the film’s opening sequence, in which a black man wandering through a suburban neighborhood at night is abducted by a mysterious figure. Much of the suspense is sustained through Kaluuya’s brilliant performance. He remains calm and collected through so much of the movie, even at points where the average viewer is screaming at him to get out, so that when he begin to panic, even slightly, we know it’s getting serious.
The rest of the cast is also great, with Keener, Whitford, Williams, and Caleb Landry Jones as Rose’s brother Jeremy turning in performances that are all creepy in their own unique way. Lil Rel Howery steals the show as Rod Williams, Chris’ TSA agent friend who serves as both the film’s comic relief and more than the film’s comic relief. His reactions to all the weird goings-on at the Armitage house that Chris tells him about over the phone are hilarious but also shockingly nonchalant. Still, as Chris has no family, he is the only one who takes his disappearance seriously when he doesn’t come home when he was supposed to. He tells Chris, “I told you not to go in that house.” It doesn’t appear to be a surprise to him that all this happened. In fact, he seems to have expected something to go wrong.
Peele is very unapologetic in his portrayal of racism in “Get Out.” There are no good white people in this movie. There isn’t even a glimmer of redemption out there for any of them. Many people have criticized other current films that deal with racism for having that one sympathetic white character to make white viewers feel better about everything. That is not this movie, and it’s all the more effective for it.
There are numerous other great things about “Get Out” to mention: the score, which is heavily inspired by African American music; the cleverness of Peele’s screenplay, which is funny and tragic and provocative and creative; the cutting between different characters and scenes to enhance suspense; all of the subtle foreshadowing, like equating Chris—and by extension, black people—with the deer who hits their car, a helpless victim of its surroundings who is hated by many, viewed only as a pest. There are some things about the ending—like I said before, Peele only gives us just the amount of information we need, and no more—that may leave some scratching their heads, but the fact that we leave the film a bit befuddled is in tune with the rest of the film’s themes. Toward the end, Chris asks one of the white characters, “Why black people?” to which that character gives a vague response. He doesn’t know why black people are the victims, and when we get right down to it, we don’t really know either. Like the deer running across the road, they just are.
Runtime: 103 minutes. Rated R.