Making a socially and politically conscious movie is no easy task. Making one that can truly take any audience member down the rabbit hole with it is even more difficult.
And doing this as a horror movie? Forget about it.
Yet, this is exactly what director Jordan Peele has done with his new film Get Out, starring Daniel Kaluuya.
Jordan Peele’s directorial debut shows no indication of inexperience, likely due to his years of producing sketch comedy as one half of the comedy duo “Key and Peele.” However, for a figure who had previously been viewed only through the lens of comedy, Get Out reveals layers of Peele’s talent that had never been explored before.
Before I continue any further, I must promise that this is a spoiler-free review: Get Out is a movie whose impact deserves to be felt in its purest form. All plot points laid out from here on out are either revealed in trailers or not central to the plot’s mystery.
Keeping with Peele’s pattern of addressing cultural issues, Get Out plumbs the depths of American race relations, albeit with a much less playful demeanor than his prior comedic work. The plot centers around Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), a young black photographer, as he visits his white girlfriend’s wealthy family out in the country. While his girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) had warned him of her parents’ racial awkwardness, Chris quickly begins to realize that there may be something much more insidious afoot on the estate.
Peele does not abandon his trademark humor, and Rose’s father’s assertion that he “would’ve voted for Obama for a third term” is among the many cringey yet humorous exchanges between Chris and the Armitages early on in the film. However, the premise of the movie is not “silly white people just don’t get it.” Rather, Chris’s experiences during the visit are serious metaphors for the ways in which outsiders still attempt to control black Americans.
The only other black people on the estate are Georgina the housekeeper (Betty Gabriel) and Walter the groundskeeper (Marcus Henderson). It is quickly apparent that something is not right with the two, who behave more as robots than as humans. Chris notes this as well, and this discomfort drives him to figure out what the deal really is.
To maintain my promise of a spoiler-free read, I won’t go any further about the plot of the film, but I can say this: Get Out constantly pulls back layers of meaning as it progresses. Rather than providing vacant rationales for the mysteries of the movie, Chris’s revelations are both highly nuanced and bloodcurdlingly terrifying. With this film, Peele follows in the tradition of “The Shining,” never wasting an opportunity to challenge the minds of the audience.
Many prospective viewers, especially conservatives, may initially recoil at the premise of the movie. On the exterior, a horror movie pitting a black man against “evil white people” may seem inflammatory. However, this perception is inaccurate and must not keep people from engaging with the film. Peele’s argument is that the black community’s autonomy is being violated by outside interests. All of these may claim to be allies, albeit with different intentions, but Peele calls out any instance of people trying to control the black community through the different characters present in the film.
Speaking of the characters, the acting in Get Out is top-tier and creates a stunningly vivid experience for the viewer. Daniel Kaluuya, in his first lead role in a feature film, is a quintessentially relatable hero—the suspense of the film is intensified by the fact that viewers can’t help but feel genuine concern for Chris’s well-being, despite his fictional status. Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener, as Rose’s parents, combine the awkward tenderness of a real set of doting parents with the menacing presence of Calvin Candie (DiCaprio’s brutal planter from Django Unchained).
Movies that combine excellent acting with masterful directing and cerebral writing are few and far between. Get Out has the feel of a Kubrick piece but the accessibility of modern Hollywood. Combined with the political relevance of the film, the style and substance of Get Out make it worthy of membership into the highest class of the horror genre, and I believe our society will be better off if we remember this film for years to come.