By Matt Fleming. There are several instances during Get Out that visually reference Kendrick Lamar’s video for the song “Swimming Pools,” moments when a black man is suspended in encompassing emptiness, fully devoid of control. Whereas the song is a treatise on crippling alcohol abuse, the allusions in Get Out seem to represent the purveying idea that African Americans have little to no control over their own agency. To be sure, if writer/director Jordan Peele was hoping to erase the notion that he’s simply a funny guy, he picked a hell of a subject to destroy that misconception with.
Get Out is not simply a horror movie about racism; the film ebbs and flows between anxiety and relief like a repeating nightmare during controlled sleep paralysis, always waking the audience in the nick of time before it takes us over the edge. And then later, it decides to let us follow it off the rails. If this movie is about a lack of control, Peele conversely executes his sardonic vision with a tight grip on composure. This being his first shot behind the camera, it’s clear Peele has been paying attention to the intricacies of filmmaking for some time. Even the marketing campaign’s ability to ensnare audiences without revealing details of the film’s story has been played to perfection.
The plot itself promises a series of typical, Look Who’s Coming To Dinner-type shenanigans: white girl and black guy bring their love before white girl’s parents, everyone works overtime to show how progressive-minded they are. However, it deftly subverts this premise by going surreal. It ramps up tension at a perfectly hurried pace. The feeling the first two acts most effectively elicits is nervousness: the entire time we follow Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) through his discomfort, the viewer shares the same feeling of helplessness. (Especially later in the film, when we’re finally at the mercy of his panic.) We know precisely as little as he knows, and by the time reality comes slapping him in the face, the audience is equally gobsmacked. Jordan Peele has hooked the lot of us. Nobody could possibly sense what’s to come until it’s right on top of us.
Daniel Kaluuya has some experience in the world of the dark and the dystopian; his role in the Black Mirror episode “Fifty Million Merits” certainly could not have hurt his preparation for this performance. His ability to wear the most intimate emotions so brightly guides the viewer throughout the film; Chris is at his most moving during moments where he’s trapped in uncontrollable stasis, brought on by a bout of almost supernatural hypnosis. By the film’s end Kaluuya has earned every accolade that can be tossed his way. Allison Williams (Girls’ resident pretentious annoyance) is perfectly cast as Rose Armitage, the beauty who can’t stop reassuring Chris that EVERYTHING IS FINE, despite the flashes of deceit that lurk just behind her twinkling eyes.
Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford provide further deception as the parents Armitage, figureheads of a lily-white country town that feels more like an oppressive compound as time passes; character actor Stephen Root shows up at one point; and Caleb Landry Jones (Banshee in X-Men: First Class) is memorable as Rose’s utterly unhinged (and unwashed) psychopathic brother. Fortunately, as the film heightens its suspense, it treads into some of the funniest, sigh-evoking comedy thanks to comedian Lil Rel Howery, a delight as Chris’ best friend Rod.
Ultimately, Get Out is as frightening as it is satirical, leaving the viewer feeling equal parts paranoid and guilty (especially if one is personally naïve to racial envy and exploitation). Perfectly paced to maximize a constant aura of discomfort, Get Out is horror for those who are only too aware of the limits to polite society. Peele has a thrilling and horrifying vision of the state of being black in America to show you. Whatever happens, try not to tear the cushions out from your armrests.
Directed by Jordan Peele.
Produced by Jason Blum, Edward H. Hamm Jr., Sean McKittrick, and Jordan Peele.
Written by Jordan Peele.
Starring Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Lil Rel Howery, and Keith Stanfield.
Rated R for… well, watch the trailer and let your imagination fill in the gaps.
9 out of 10