Spoiler-Free Review: Jordan Peele’s Get Out Is Exactly The Thriller We Need Right Now
4.5 out of 5 stars
Films like The Babadook, the story of a single mother protecting her child, and Desierto, a thriller about Mexicans being picked off by a crazed gunman at the southern border of the U.S, are compelling because the terrors they deal in are specific to an experience and told through a specific lens. Jordan Peele’s Get Out is an incisive, tense thriller that gets at what’s scary about being black in America.
Photographer Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) is going home with his white girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), to meet her parents, Dean and Missy Armitage (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener), for the first time.
At first, the trip seems completely normal, with nothing but the occasional (okay, more than occasional) microaggression to make things slightly uncomfortable for Chris. However, the longer they stay, and as Chris is pulled into mingling at an annual get-together Dean and Missy throw every year, the more he notices strange things.
The other black people with whom he interacts seem stilted and really creepy in their politeness. Rose’s family and the white guests at the party seem unusually preoccupied with complimenting Chris’ physical prowess and photographer’s eye. On the surface, everything seems fine. But, of course, things are not fine, and Chris will soon wish he’d never taken this relationship to the next level.
Writer/director Jordan Peele (of Key & Peele fame) clearly loves horror films and thrillers, as several of the sketches on his Comedy Central show demonstrated. Here, he’s finally got an entire feature to himself, and he handles the genre’s tropes expertly; making you jump in your seat in the ways you expect, and in many ways that you don’t. What’s really great about the film, however, is how Peele weaves real-life, commonplace occurrences—like a black person being unfairly targeted by police—and juxtaposes them with the horror story elements, highlighting the horror in the everyday.
The script is wonderful, briskly paced, and manages to be hilarious and scary at the same time. Though Peele specializes in comedy, make no mistake: Get Out isn’t a horror spoof, it’s genuinely frightening. If I had to make one complaint, it would be about the film’s use of music. Too often, the score’s crazed string section obviously signaled something that was supposed to be scary. As this was Peele’s feature film directorial debut, I hope that in his next outing he trusts himself and his pacing more. He knows how to direct tense, chilling moments without needing to punctuate everything with a screeching violin.
This film is perfectly cast all around, and Kaluuya’s nuanced performance holds the film together beautifully. He plays Chris with softness, ferocity, and a wry wit, all of which plays subtly on his face throughout the film. Whitford and Keener do an amazing job of being those white people that could either be genuinely well-meaning, or super-racist. They each manage to find the balance where everything they say could be taken either way, leaving you extremely unsettled whenever they’re on screen.
If you only know Allison Williams from Girls, get ready to see a whole other side of her as she displays a brilliant blend of sweetness, humor, and unexpected steeliness as Rose. Betty Gabriel as Georgina, the Armitage’s maid, is absolutely heartbreaking throughout the film. And the delightful Lil Rel Howery as Chris’ best friend, Rod, provides amazing comic relief while also being the vehicle through which some of the most incisive observations are made.
My other small complaint about the film is with the character of Jeremy, Rose’s brother, played by Caleb Landry Jones. I couldn’t decide if this was an actor issue, a writing issue, or a directing issue (possibly a combination of all three), but Jeremy is the least nuanced character in the film, and I think some of the storytelling suffers because of it.
Get Out is going to be one of those movies that people are going to talk about years from now as being a valuable encapsulation of our times. It’s smart and unflinching about issues of race, offering a much-needed commentary on today’s political dumpster fire, even as it serves on the surface as a competent, well-executed thriller. I would highly recommend checking it out when it hits theaters this weekend. Get Out is exactly the thriller we need right now.
Get Out opens Friday, February 24th.
(images via screencap)
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