I finally caught up with Jordan Peele’s directorial debut Get Out (2017), and it’s a masterpiece. An ingenious combination of horror, suspense, and social commentary, Get Out couldn’t be more contemporary, but its techniques and ambience reminded me strongly of 1970s cinema, bringing back memories of the last Hollywood decade uncorrupted by the excesses of post-Star Wars blockbuster ambition. It’s a refreshing release, and I hope other big-budget filmmakers will follow the lead of its success.
Get Out chronicles a weekend gone extraordinarily wrong for young photographer Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya), who journeys out of the city with his girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) to meet her family for the first time. Chris is apprehensive about the trip, since he is black and Rose is white, and he’s not sure how her family will react. And indeed, when he meets them—father Dean (Bradley Whitford), mother Missy (Catherine Keener), and brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones)— there’s more than a little awkward racial tension in the Armitage household. But Chris soon begins to feel his sense of disquiet isn’t just personal; something deeply weird is going on in this neck of the suburbs, and he’s right in the thick of it.
Even just on the surface, Get Out is a gripping slow-build of unsettling suspense, but masterful racial dynamics add another brilliant level. Leveraging genre tropes with clever abandon, Get Out piercingly depicts the social horrors of being black in a society ruled by pseudo-enlightened whiteness. Peele’s script and direction walk a hair-splitting tonal line between knowing, subversive humor and harrowing dread, fully immersing the viewer in its disturbing truths. Kaluuya’s increasingly unsettled expressions and reactions are pitch-perfect, and Whitford, Keener, and Jones couldn’t be better cast or deployed. Smart, Stepfordesque support comes from Marcus Henderson, Betty Gabriel, and LaKeith Stanfield, while Lil Rey Howery provides timely comic relief. Overall, a great, must-see film that, while cagily tapping into what’s been done before, delivers something spectacularly different.