Chris Washington and Rose Armitage (Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams) are a young couple in love. They are headed to a weekend away with her parents Dr. Dean Armitage (Bradley Whitford), a neurosurgeon, and Missy Armitage (Catherine Keener), psychiatrist, at their secluded home deep in the countryside. Before leaving, Chris was concerned about how Rose’s parents would react to him being black; but the couple greets him with open arms while Mr. Armitage is trying too hard to make Chris feel welcome. Chris meets Georgina and Walter (Betty Gabriel and Marcus Henderson), the housekeeper and groundskeeper respectively, and notices the pair act a bit odd in a way that could be considered hostile. Rose’s brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones) arrives home from medical school, gets drunk, and behaves somewhat aggressively towards Chris. Missy does hypnotherapy and offers to place Chris under hypnosis to help him quit smoking. Chris declines but Missy does it anyway, making Chris relive the night his mother died in a hit and run accident when he was 11. This is the weekend of the annual family garden party with numerous guests expected to arrive. One of those guests is Andrew Logan King (LaKeith Stanfield) who is also black. When Chris approaches him, King also behaves oddly. Chris attempts to secretly take a cell phone picture but the flash goes off. King attacks Chris and has to be restrained by several guests. Chris sends the photo to his friend Rod (Lil Rel Howery), a TSA agent, and he recognizes the man as someone that has been reported missing for six months. Chris tells Rose they have to leave but the Armitage family has other plans.
“Get Out” is the first feature directed by Jordan Peele, best known as half the comedy team of Key and Peele. Should the film be successful (and early indications are it will be), comedy’s loss will be moviegoer’s gain as this first outing is about as good a thriller and social commentary you can get and Jordan Peele will likely be directing many more movies.
Part of what makes “Get Out” extra creepy is the normalcy of most of what happens. A young couple of mixed race, the man meeting his girlfriend’s parents for the first time, the clash of cultures that is desperately being played down as much as possible, the awkward efforts to make the outsider feel comfortable, all of it is given this added veneer of effort and “everything is going to be alright” that screams to the audience that it won’t be close to alright. These small touches I believe are what built up the dread in me as the events unfolded.
The film is filled with great performances from the entire cast. Daniel Kaluuya shines as Chris. You can see his desire to run away during every second of his time at the Armitage house. He sticks out like a sore thumb during the garden party and feels like an animal in a zoo being looked over and appraised. He can feel it but he brushes it off as his just feeling uncomfortable around a bunch of white people. Kaluuya is a very talented young actor with an impressive list of credits on British TV as well as films and theatre. If you have Netflix, check out his lead role in the episode of “Black Mirror” called “Fifteen Million Merits.” His portrayal of Chris will likely have him doing even more work in movies in the US.
While the role of Chris’ friend Rod is small, Lil Rel Howery makes the most of his screen time. Howery provides most of the comic relief in the film and it is all perfectly timed to relieve tension and prepare us for the next horror that is to come. Howery is a stand-up comic with a special on Netflix and now perhaps a new career playing the funny best friend in movies. Director Jordan Peele allows Howery to take over a scene and flex his comedy muscles while also making his character a TSA agent, something that already is the subject of more than a few jokes. Howery is a joy to watch and he makes his brief appearances memorable.
While I don’t want to give too much information about what’s really happening in the story that makes it a thriller/horror film, I do want to complement the way the scarier aspects of the story are structured and introduced. Not until late in the film do we gain a full understanding of what’s happening and when we do it hits with enormous emotional force. Throughout the film we see the seeds of the plot being sown but don’t understand what’s going on right before our eyes. When we finally have all the pieces of the puzzle, the reveal is especially satisfying in its twisted nature. Most horror/suspense films show you the boogeyman, or reveal its existence, early on. “Get Out” keeps its cards very close to its chest and only shows them when the time is perfect. It’s a terrifically structured story and mystery written by Peele.
“Get Out” is rated R for language, bloody images, sexual references and violence. The bloody images and violence is largely saved for the last 30 minutes or so of the movie. During that time there are some fights, weapons used, parts of a surgical procedure are shown, there’s a bloody stabbing, a person hit by a car and some shootings. The sexual references are very mild. Foul language is common but not overwhelming.
“Get Out” is not just about thrills as it also makes a commentary about race and class in America. When confronted with the fact their daughter is dating a black man, the parents try extra hard to show they have no problem with him. Dad even takes Chris aside for a tour of the house and says he’d have voted for Obama a third time; but we all know this merely a smoke screen for his true feelings just as many whites profess their lack of racism despite incidents of racial hate being on the rise. Some put on a happy and non-judgmental face to those of a different race then continue to judge and stereotype them behind their backs. The movie puts a twist on that two-faced behavior that is more immediately dangerous but no less deadly. It also does so without diminishing how tense and entertaining the film is.
“Get Out” gets five stars.
There are three new films coming out this week. I’ll see and review at least one of the following:
Before I Fall—
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