Director: Jordan Peele
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener, LilRel Howery
‘Get Out’ arrives in the UK soon, following incredible rave reviews from the States. It’s a horror-thriller directed by one-half of a world-famous comedy duo set in modern day that addresses social prejudices, that it feels most of us, whether we know it or not, are guilty of. It’s terror, comedy, and social commentary all thrown together in one easily digestible trip to the cinema. The end result is a triumph on several levels, but it’s one that I fear won’t find its audience as successfully over here as it has in America.
‘Get Out’ follows Chris (Kaluuya) and Rose (Williams), an interracial couple embarking on a weekend trip to meet Rose’s parents for the first time. The catch is a simple one; Rose’s parents don’t know Chris is black. To most, this wouldn’t seem like a problem unless Rose’s family are massively racist. It’s 2017, not 1917. Chris has some hesitation about this from his own personal experiences (there’s no doubt that this is a situation Peele himself has found himself in), but they go and endure a very, very strange weekend where things are not all that they seem.
To say much else about the plot would ruin the delights that await you. Peele, who also wrote this film, has managed to craft a fabulously entertaining story and portrays it so successfully that it manages to elicit a clear understanding and response from its audience, no matter their race. In arguably the film’s defining sequence, Chris and Rose meet various couples at a party their parents are holding and all of whom aim to make small talk with Chris that all revolve around Chris being black. Whether it’s talking about golf and swaying the conversation towards Tiger Woods or talking about how black is very much in fashion in this day and age; it’s an uncomfortable, hilarious sequence that showcases Peele’s comedic sensibilities while subtly showcasing the film’s message.
The performances in ‘Get Out’ are fantastic across the board. Kaluuya is evidently on the road to stardom after he stole the show in ‘Sicario’ a few years ago, and he leads this effortlessly, managing to portray his feelings of anxiety or awkwardness in the smallest facial expressions. Williams comes across as the world’s coolest girlfriend, while Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener play the awkward first encounter with a daughter’s boyfriend so perfectly that everyone can empathise with every party in it. The star of the show, however, is LilRel Howery’s Rod, Chris’ best friend. When things are starting to get even more tense and worrying, Rod is on hand to lighten the mood with laugh-out-loud lines to deflate the tension. He rambles on about now looking at serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer in the wrong light (“you’re only NOW looking at Dahmer in the wrong light?!”) or his long-winded suspicions of what is going on at Rose’s parents’ house this weekend to the police. He’s a hilarious character in a film that is equal parts funny and intense and is justifiably being recognised as the star.
Where the film stumbles slightly is, for me, in its genre. I never found ‘Get Out’ to be overtly scary, aside from a couple of nicely played jump scares. The entire film is uncomfortable and awkward and tense, but it’s never horrifying. I would absolutely say ‘Get Out’ is much closer to being a psychological thriller than it is a horror as the film manages to cleverly to play with our expectations of how these kinds of weekends go and manages to critique our behaviour when meeting someone who is slightly different than what we’re accustomed to.
Further, while ‘Get Out’ has been so successful with American audiences, it’s success here is up in the air. ‘Get Out’ criticises a very American society and expresses commentary on race, police and politics, all of which are very relevant in the America of today. I hope it’s successful here because it deserves to find a global audience, but there are definitely some references that will be lost on your typical British viewer.
All that said, ‘Get Out’ is ultimately incredibly successful at what it set out to do. It criticises its viewing audience, it criticises class culture, and it criticises our expectations of the film itself. My one piece of advice going into this is you will benefit from really paying attention. The subtleties Peele has managed to embed into this film are so impressive. It’s a film that will no doubt benefit from second, third, and fourth viewings. Jordan Peele has an incredibly bright future, and this is as strong a directorial debut as I can remember seeing.