Jordan Peele’s biting social commentary.
I feel like everyone else on the planet has already seen Get Out, so this review is going to have some spoilers. Fair warning.
Jordan Peele’s directorial debut goes a little beyond what most first-time directors can hope to achieve. Get Out is a critical and commercial powerhouse that amazingly lives up (mostly) to the hype that surrounds it. I had wanted to see the film when it was first announced, but due to poor timing on my part and limited theater showings in my town I missed it. I grew concerned about the film as everyone basically screamed in my face that this is the best horror film ever. Over-hyping anything can end up hurting it in the long run, and while I will argue that this film is excellent, it isn’t the best horror film ever. Classifying things in such grandiose terms just limits the audience. I have no interest in setting up viewers for disappointment.
Get Out can be roughly separating into two parts that I call pre and post reveal. During the first hour of the film we follow Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) as he is going to meet his girlfriend Rose’s (Allison Williams) parents. The major theme of the film is the constant state of terror and discomfort that African Americans exist in. Chris is black and Rose is white—so how will he be received?
For me, the movie works the best when we have the awkward and clumsy racial relations on their full and uncomfortable display. The film somehow makes these scenes deeply reflective, bothersome, and often funny. Chris states several times that he feels uncomfortable around so many white people, and the film does well to show us why. The black people in the movie are treated as props to be objectified or gazed upon by the whites. The humanism of Chris and the other minorities is not acknowledged, and they are positioned into a lesser category of being.
Although humor rips through a lot of the scenes, there is also a level of tragedy. Reading the forums on the link above on can see that many see this film as a genuine reflection of what it is like to exist as black in America. The opening of the film shows the discomfort one feels when walking alone at night in a white neighborhood.
The post-reveal portions of the film are where the social commentary takes a bit of a backseat to make room for thriller genre elements. Once again—SPOILERS FOLLOW.
The community of whites is kidnapping African Americans to remove their consciousness and inject their own. The devious and dehumanizing plot further reduces the role of blacks in society as mere vessels for white use. Chris believes the blacks are somehow being reprogrammed to be slaves, but the reality is perhaps even more dehumanizing. The objectification of subordinating ones’ consciousness to allow a different (white) one to take over is an interesting idea.
The horror aspects work well, but the first half of the film handled the issues in a more razor-sharp manner. Too much narrative space has to be made to explain what the hell is going on to allow for full explorative criticism to occur. Granted, the second half of the movie is intense, and still does present a lot of interesting ideas.
I have seen some complain that all the white people in the movie are in on it (yes, even Rose). My response to this is more or less: so what? A major point of this movie is that the existence of African Americans is a constant feeling of uncertainty and danger. Further, the movie is certainly directed at false friends of the black community. Subtle liberal white racism is lampooned here, and it is something that certainly needs to be discussed further.
Peele might continue to make movies with biting social commentary, and I hope he does. The quality of the film is high, and his directorial hand is more than competent. The film has a bit of a rocky transition between commentary and thriller, and the ending might seem a bit rushed, but this is certainly one of the more unique film experiences I have seen in a while.
Consistent followers of this blog will know that I often lament at the current state of the horror genre. This film, while I think it is more a thriller with horror elements, might actually show how to save the genre. Get Out is not only an exciting cinematic experience it is also talking about issues that actually matter. People are actually discussing the issues presented in the movie. Getting people thinking and talking after the film is one of the many powers of cinema.
Get Out is a thought provoking, funny, sometimes cringe worthy, and well paced story. I think it is an important film, and one that fans and newcomers to the horror genre will appreciate. It might not change your life, but you will probably be thinking about it a day or two after (at least). 9.5/10