Distributor: Universal Pictures
Director: Jordan Peele
Writer: Jordan Peele
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener, Milton “Lil Rel” Howery
Composer: Michael Abels
When a film on a $4.5 million dollar budget ends up taking home over $252 million in profit, even folks who had no intention of seeing it have had to take notice. Full disclosure: I had never heard of Jordan Peele before his debut as the director for Get Out, so as I read on Twitter the congratulations in his direction, I had no idea what was going on. In fact, months passed by as memes and references to the Sunken Place went over my head. My questions on Twitter in regards to defining the Sunken Place were met with silence.
I now know that Peele was once a comedian in shows such as Key & Peele and MADtv. I also now know what the Sunken Place is, and it may very well be the most terrifying thing I have ever experienced in film.
Violence/Scary Images: Get Out features an abduction, a choke hold, a gunshot wound to the torso and head, a deer hit by a car, a goring by deer, and the smashing of a skull and surgical removal of a skull. Though this appears as a long list, no moment of violence is wasteful or excessive. In fact, the primary conduit of violence is that of the psychological kind. To explain further would be spoiler material.
Language/Crude Humor: Get Out generously exercises the full gamut of the four-letter variety of words with the F-bomb being most frequent. The Lord’s name is taken in vain, and the the N-word is uttered. Two characters gesture to each who is number one. The comic relief character regularly indulges in vulgarities such as violent references to genitalia.
Sexual Content: The two protagonists introduced to the audience share the kind of kiss that gives the impression that they’ve covered all the bases in the past. These same two characters later jump in bed flirtatiously, and the scene shifts to night with the implication that they have had sex. Later, a woman asks Rose if sex is better (with Chris as opposed to a white man), which elicits the black buck stereotype.
Alcohol/Drug Use: As yet another plot device, Get Out‘s protagonist is a smoker who is trying to quit. There is a cocktail party in the third act of the film.
Spiritual Content: While Get Out does not explicitly delve into specific religious matters, it does illustrate how covetousness can manifest itself.
Other Negative Content: The existence of this movie is contingent upon the fact that the United States has yet to fully reconcile with its legacy of racism.
Positive Content: Transmuting prejudices, stereotypes, and taboos into tension and terror, Get Out produces good art. To its credit, it effectively deploys one of Maya Angelou’s famous quotes, “When people show you who they are, believe them—the first time.” Additionally, this film celebrates self-determination in how it executes its resolution.
The mastery of Get Out begins in its very opening seconds and maintains this momentum throughout its 104-minute runtime. For example, despite America being a free country, it is good and darn well known that a black man like Andre Hayworth (LaKeith Stanfield) has no business walking alone in the pitch-black darkness of an assumed-to-be-white suburb. For the less-informed, Andre makes the comment that he is sticking out like a sore thumb, and a few moments later when a suspicious vehicle begins shadowing on the street as he walks along the sidewalk, he says, “F*** this. Not me! Not today! You know how they be doing mother ***ers out here!” as he about-faces and doubles his pace to elude his would-be stalker.
How do they do certain folks out here, Mr Stanfield? Regardless of cognition prompting one to either ask or (already) answer this (rhetorical) question, Get Out endures in its quest to generate more inquiries of this kind, leaving the audience to rely on cultural capital to fill in the blanks with minimal-hand holding. As the audience processes Stanfield’s words, the driver of the vehicle exits off-camera for the ambush.
Get Out then shifts to Rose’s (Allison Williams) arrival at her boyfriend Chris’s (Daniel Kaluuya) apartment. As the latter packs in preparation for a visit with the parents of the former, they begin the kind of conversation that many audiences consider, but may never summon the courage to discuss in real-time: do her white parents know that she is dating a black man? The “Why does it matter?” question is addressed concurrently. Rose assures her boyfriend that he will not be lynched upon sight like an Emmett Till, because her dad is so progressive that “He would have voted for Obama for a third term if he could.”
Without prompting the audience that Rose’s response mirrors the false sense of self-corroboration that is, “I have friends who are black,” an incredulous Chris nevertheless acquiesces, and they hit the road…and a deer. It literally flies out of nowhere as if shot from a cannon from one side of the two-lane country road to the other. The placement of this deer is Get Out‘s only misstep. While a projectile-animatronic might have been more affordable than a CGI, this forced metaphor (MEGA SPOILERS for its meaning here) is one that is established in the first ten minutes of the film, yet the movie vacillates between amnesia and remembrance of it.
At any rate, this accident also serves the purpose of demonstrating how ride-or-die Rose actually is when she rebuffs the police officer who is writing the accident report for requesting Chris’s ID even though she was the driver. She calls the entire situation bull****, and the officer is shamed to silence, an exhibition of power that this lithe white woman has that Chris and those like him wish they had, as Chris would later describe her intervention as “hot.” Also important during this road trip is the introduction of Chris’s best friend and comic relief for the film, Rod (Lil Rel Howery).
Chris and Rose arrive at her parents’ house, and an awkward “meet the parents” conversation takes place—nothing out of the ordinary. Mr. Armitage (Bradley Whitford) gives his speech about how deer are an anathema to nature and proceeds to show Chris around the house. He notices that Chris stares with thinly-veiled intensity at Georgina (Betty Gabriel) and Walter (Marcus Henderson), prompting him to broach the topic before Chris can: “I know what you’re thinking; I get it. White family, black servants? Total cliché…I hate the way it looks.”
“I wasn’t going to take it there,” Chris interjects, but Mr. Armitage presses forward anyway just as Get Out does perpetually. Later, Rose tells Chris that she had forgotten that this weekend was the Armitages’ annual get-together of old friends, but he takes the news in stride, knowing that he will be tokened among the almost exclusively white kindred, and voluntarily subjects himself to a full gamut of racial stereotypes: his potential for athleticism is compared to Tiger Woods; a woman married to an invalid inquires of him and Rose his sexual virility; one disarmingly honest attendee shoots it straight—Chris is “cool” simply by virtue of his blackness. Upon meeting Logan, the only other black member of this foreign ensemble, the film accelerates in the unraveling of its plot.
The last time I can remember a comedian attempting something more serious in film, it was Chris Rock’s involvement with Good Hair (2009), a documentary where Rock merely served as the facilitator on the topic—a guide or infiltrator into the black community, black consciousness. Concerning all the key elements that go into film production, such as budgeting, writing, directing, and so on, Rock had minimal involvement. In contrast, Jordan Peele’s first attempt at film with Get Out is unconscionably brilliant. Even in my construction of a plot summary, I could not resist the urge to intervene by either providing the tools for readers of this review (or already-viewers of the film) to unlock its overflowing abundance of nuance and clever evocations of everyday macro-level conflicts distilled into a delectable, digestible, feast. This contrasts strongly to a movie such as Crash (2004), which for some was as easy to swallow as a whole hard taco shell without chewing.
In Get Out, for example, Rose’s disgust of the behavior exhibited in her family’s friends yields, “How are they different than that cop?” Such a line, even to the inattentive viewer, rekindles the memory of the deer accident scene where Rose rescues Chris from a DWB (driving while black/brown) even though he was the passenger, and how their explicit and simultaneous othering and fetishization of Chris is intensified by the now-intimate space. Does anyone around here know any better? Chris shrugs it off with an “I told you so,” reminding the audience of their conversation at the beginning of the movie in his apartment concerning what could possibly go down when her family encounters his blackness.
How the actors and actresses convey all of this on-screen with aplomb simply does not make sense. On a $4.5 million dollar budget, I am expecting a cheesy line, an incongruent gesture, a misplaced casting, yet in my upheaval for flaws, I am gratefully disappointed to come up empty-handed. The coolness of Daniel Kaluuya’s Chris transcends that which mere blackness provides in comparison to how others might have responded during his encounters. Stoicism is unknown to him, and he wields a full range of emotional responses when necessary.
Only Allison Williams’s Rose could top Kaluuya’s Chris, for she manages Chris’s swelling anxiety as best as a lover should. Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener as father and mother (Dean and Missy) Armitage are as on point as those entertaining guests in their home could possibly be, though their warm demeanor turns cold toward their son, Jeremy, played by Caleb Landry Jones, who some may mistake for the worst actor out of the bunch. However, Jeremy is the unfortunate black sheep of the family in his inability for pretense, and thus, Jones parades his character’s weirdness with smashing success, especially because he manages to differentiate his eccentricities with those of Betty Gabriel’s Georgina and Marcus Henderson’s Walter. Lastly, LaKeith Stanfield’s shift in character has to be seen to be believed!
We have Charlie Clouser to thank for the excellence that is “Hello Zepp” from the Saw series, but otherwise, horror is not a genre for soundtrack collectors. Likewise, Get Out‘s contribution in this area is minimal. Most memorable are the all-too-traditional audio cue accompanying the few “jump scare” attempts. Where the film excels, however, is its almost sentient ability to focus on certain objects, people, or entire scenes as signifying centerpieces.
The camera smoothly pans without breaks for a full two minutes to create shots such as Stanfield’s abduction. It pivots between Rose and Chris at a pier and a key piece of art at an ad-hoc auction. It ominously reveals the gargantuan trophy in a recreation room. And the Sunken Place itself would not be possible, ironically, without the darkness that accompanies Chris’s profession of photography. No actor or actress can hide their craft from the gaze of the lens, for focus on faces reigns supreme, and it revels in the currency of uncanny body language. Seriously, who are the people in this cast and why have I not heard of them before?
The last time I can recall a film budgeted on the equivalent of change found between couch cushions—and within the horror genre no less—was Saw ($1.2m, with $103m worldwide profit). I am pleased to see Get Out became exceedingly popular (and thus, profitable), and all the accolades are justified. 2017 has hosted the likes of Logan, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Thor: Ragnarok is still to come—movies that will be seen and serve the purpose of entertaining their audiences this year, only to be forgotten when 2018 rolls in with Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther, and The Incredibles 2. Get Out is the kind of movie that will be studied, analyzed, and used as a teaching mechanism in high schools to graduate-level film studies courses fifty years from now. It is indeed that rife in its narrative weaving and cinematic incantation. Get Out is that good.
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