It would be easy to believe, when Get Out begins, that it will be a parody of horror films. It makes sense. Jordan Peele is famous for work in comedy, specifically with his partner Michael Keegan-Key on “Key and Peele,” and the film does start out funny.
However, “Get Out” becomes really terrifying when it begins to delve into its subject matter, which is an exploration of what it is like to be a person of color in a society that systematically oppresses you. This film is exceptionally timely considering the post-2016 world we inhabit, and the racism and xenophobia that have become emboldened since the election. Not to mention the alarming rate in which young men of color are being killed by the police.
Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) is going up to visit his girlfriend Rose Armitage’s (Allison Williams) parents for the first time. The only problem is that she has not told them he is black, and the area that her parents live in has a history of black men going missing. She insists that they are not racist.
Chris meets Missy (Catherine Keener) and Dean (Bradley Whitford) and it all seems par for the course. Rose humorously warns Chris that her father will mention that he would have definitely voted for Obama for a third term (boy, wouldn’t we all given the administration now). The longer Chris stays with her parents, the more sinister things get.
There is an interesting reversal of tropes that occurs in the film. For example, Chris and Rose run into a very contemptuous police officer on their trip to see Missy and Dean. Despite Rose being involved in the incident, the police officer still insists that he see Chris’s license and registration. It is a small scene, but it becomes very important near the very end of the film (and a nice almost-scare for the audience).
It is also indicative of how meticulously detailed the script is. Some minutiae, like Chris scratching his seat and pulling out a wad of cotton to reference times of slavery, may go unnoticed by the viewer at first watch.
The film portrays a wide variety of African-Americans, but subverts cliches. What ends up happening so often in the horror genre is that the person of color either ends up becoming a stereotype, or dying. “Get Out” is an interesting exploration of this trope, especially within the context of modern society.
Kaluuya does an excellent job of expressing the sheer terror of institutional racism, and not being able to rely on many of the systemic structures or empathy that a white person could if they were the protagonist in a horror film. Allison Williams’s (who also puts out reliably terrific work in “Girls”) performance is also excellent and is reminiscent of early Reese Witherspoon.
The film strays a bit in its third act. Part of that is because the film begins so brilliantly in its first hour, with a subtlety and quiet contemplativeness often seen from veteran filmmakers (a testament to excellent directing from Jordan Peele). Peele is very deliberate with his pacing for the first two acts. However, it takes a tonal shift in its final third that is both jarring and a little disappointing.
The film becomes more interested in gore and violence than properly contemplating the questions it was doing such a good job of exploring earlier. The film makes an attempt (I won’t say towards what), but it feels like the bare minimum. It never justifies why things do or don’t work out for Chris at the end. Also, Chris’s best friend Rod felt a little underutilized in the film (even though he draws the film’s biggest laughs). These criticisms are minor, though.
“Get Out” is a smart and impressive, if slightly uneven, directorial debut for Jordan Peele that effectively communicates the idea that, as a person of color, life in America can be pretty terrifying.