Directed by: Jordan Peele || Produced by: Jason Blum, Edward H. Hamm Jr., Sean McKittrick, Jordan Peele
Screenplay by: Jordan Peele || Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Stephen Root, LaKeith Stanfield, Catherine Keener, Betty Gabriel, Lil Rey Howery, Erika Alexander
Music by: Michael Abels || Cinematography: Toby Oliver || Edited by: Gregory Plotkin || Country: United States || Language: English
Running Time: 103 minutes
Continuing its trend of mainstream studio horror dominance is Blumhouse Productions (e.g. Paranormal Activity [2009-2015], The Purge [2013-2016], Insidious [2011-2017], Split ), the scary movie factory whose box office receipts are orders of magnitude larger than A24’s, but whose productions themselves only a fraction as memorable. Still, the house that Jason Blum built is known to stumble across notable works of horror from time to time, and they have gotten lucky once again with comedian Jordan Peele’s first foray into the genre: Get Out.
Get Out (henceforth, GO) is a satirical horror social commentary in the vein of The Stepford Wives (1975), Dawn of the Dead (1978), Videodrome (1983), or Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956, 1978). Its characters navigate its unsettling world with straight faces and the utmost seriousness, but dark satire is nestled into the film’s Twilight Zone (1959-1964)-premise. If you’ve seen the trailer, then unfortunately the entire plot has already been spoiled for you, minus a few laugh-out-loud worthy details concerning the story’s obvious twist. GO is still worth watching, however, given Peele’s command behind the camera and attention to cinematographic detail, but to say that all 103 minutes operate on the same joke isn’t hyperbolic in the least.
GO’s entire setup and story involve every black guy’s worst nightmare with a black comedy twist. Lead Daniel Kaluuya is taken by his white girlfriend, Allison Williams, to meet her upscale family, who reside in an unspecified, gentrified suburb. Every family member proceeds to make awkward, racially tinged remarks about Kaluuya and his relationship with Williams, confirming the former’s initial misgivings about the whole affair, and every person of color he meets behaves like a brainwashed zombie. Following a solid hour of cringeworthy upper-crust, country club racism, shit hits the fan and GO transforms into a full-fledged Twilight Zone or Star Trek episode — in a good way.
The best thing about GO by far is Peele’s direction. While there’s too much dialogue-heavy handheld camerawork for my tastes, Peele utilizes an eclectic mix of SteadiCam long takes, wide-angle tripod shots, motion controlled tracking-shots, and ominous dolly shots. I also like his use of music, which combines distinct orchestral riffs with African choral themes and blues motifs. GO’s most distinct audio-visuals are its surrealist hypnotic sequences, which become almost experimental at times.
My second favorite aspect of GO is Kaluuya’s lead performance. Much of my patience for the film’s inconsistent dialogue and supporting characters (more on them in a moment) is tempered by Kaluuya’s sympathetic plight and terrific reaction shots. The man showcases great physical acting paired with an otherwise laid back, matter-of-fact demeanor, similar to his performance in Sicario (2015). Whenever Peele’s script starts to lay on the social commentary a little thick, Kaluuya’s subtle, exasperated tone cuts through the awkward tension for great laughs.
My main problems with the film have to do with the screenplay’s incredibly obvious, on-the-noise dialogue and Lil Rel Howery’s comic relief character. I like this movie, but I balk at much of its universal acclaim and the sheer, dripping praise for its supposedly highbrow political overtones. Much like another politically charged film I enjoyed, Wadjda (2012), every single line of dialogue in GO is in service to its social commentary or satire. Where as virtually all dialogue in Wadjda had to do with how men could do this, but women can’t do that, virtually (or perhaps literally) all dialogue in GO includes overtly creepy white condescension toward African-Americans. I appreciate that Peele didn’t feel the need to make his villains skinheads, Neo-Nazis, or other assorted members of the alt-right, but I don’t think these antagonists are much less forced.
My last criticism concerns Howery, who plays Kaluuya’s black BFF-commentary and exposition. While Howery gives an amusing performance, his character feels like he walked out of a different movie, and he interrupts the story’s building suspense multiple times.
Other than those small yet significant complaints, Get Out is a surprise success for first-time director Jordan Peele. The man clearly has talent behind the camera, as well as a nose for lead casting and subversive horror themes. As far as wide-release horror films are concerned, particularly those from a prolific studio like Blumhouse Productions that favors quantity over the quality of its releases, you could do far worse than Get Out.
SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATION: Get Out combines an outrageous satirical premise with effective horror cinematography to create the latest and greatest socially conscious scary movie. With a worthy lead in Daniel Kaluuya, experimentalist visuals, and a unique soundtrack, Get Out solidifies itself as the Stepford Wives or Invasion of the Body Snatchers of today.
— However… anyone who claims Peele isn’t coming on a little strong with his commentary is smoking something, and there’s no reason for Lil Rel Howery’s character to be in this movie.
? This film should come with a micro-aggression meter. Hey, Honest Trailers?
Pretty freaky. Nice review.
It’s a semi-sleeper hit for sure.
I think Howery, in some way, represented Peele himself. At least that’s how I felt after watching the TV sketches.
Now that you mention it, yeah, I can see his indulgence in some sort of audience or director-surrogate with that character.