100% certified fresh by Rotten Tomatoes. Critically lauded across the board, especially for being the ‘debut’ film for writer/director JORDAN PEELE. Making CRAZY amounts at the box office, for the relatively tiny budget it had. Exactly how does one review a movie with the current pedigree of GET OUT, without ruining it for those who haven’t seen it? And should it be advised to those same people, to believe all the hype around it?
Let me take my best stab at answering those questions.
WILL there be another movie more apropos for the cultural and political climate that exists at this very moment, across the country? Just my opinion, of course, but that would be a “NO”. GET OUT will make it possible for more films of this caliber to get the green light, but until they do, this is the best we got, and it happens to be DAMN good.
This is also a testament to the cleverly twisted mind of Peele, (of KEY AND PEELE fame.) I’m not at all surprised at his adeptness when it comes to wielding horror tropes as a way to sneak in some potent social commentary. It’s been pretty evident from some of K&P’s more elaborate comedy sketches, that he has quite the cinematic vocabulary as well, since certain shots and scenes are direct homages to some classic films – everything from THE STEPFORD WIVES and ROSEMARY’S BABY, to THE TWILIGHT ZONE (and GET OUT owes a lot to that classic series) and every single film you’ve ever seen, where a weekend family outing turns to shit on a dime.
If you’ve seen the trailers or read anything about it, this will not come as news: DANIEL KALUUYA (SICARIO, the “Fifteen Million Merits” episode of BLACK MIRROR, and the upcoming BLACK PANTHER Netflix series), plays photographer Chris Washington, who is embarking on a weekend trip to spend time with the parents of his current girlfriend, Rose Armitage, played wonderfully by Brian Williams’ “little girl”, ALLISON WILLIAMS (GIRLS, THE MINDY PROJECT). His main concern is that Rose’s parents will probably freak when they find out he’s black. Rose assures him that they’re “so liberal and so not racist, they would have voted Obama for a third term if they could have.”) And as it turns out, she UNDER-exaggerated their personalities and views. BRADLEY WHITFORD (THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, THE WEST WING, SAVING MR. BANKS) and CATHERINE KEENER (BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, CAPOTE, THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN), are note-perfect as Missy and Dean Armitage, the kind of left-of-left-of-left liberals who are so accommodating and ingratiating, it’s almost a painful thing to watch. AND experience.
The first real sense of things being odd, though, comes when Chris meets the Armitages’ “hired help”: groundskeeper ‘Walter’ (MARCUS HENDERSON of WHIPLASH and PETE’S DRAGON) and housemaid ‘Georgina’ (BETTY GABRIEL of THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR.) “Subservient” doesn’t even begin to describe their demeanor, which is more than just a little…off.
And I also have to mention here the performance of LAKEITH STANFIELD (THE PURGE: ANARCHY) as “Andrew Logan King”, a ‘guest’ of the Armitages, and another ‘friend’, a blind gallery owner “Jim Hudson”, played by the always-superb STEPHEN ROOT (OFFICE SPACE, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, TRUMBO, etc.) All of their interactions with Chris are the meatier parts of the menacing truth simmering just underneath the placid surface of the beautiful Armitage country estate.
And then there’s the brother, Jeremy, played by CALEB LANDRY JONES (X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, THE LAST EXORCISM and the upcoming TWIN PEAKS reboot), who reminds me so much of Robin Lord Taylor’s turn as the vicious offspring of Jeffrey Combs in WOULD YOU RATHER?, though Jeremy’s nastiness is tinged with something far, far worse – deeper and nastier than just casual sadism or racism.
In fact, rather than just first-time-meeting jitters, Chris is sharp enough to detect something else going on underneath the over-enthusiastic hospitality…something his best buddy, TSA worker Rod Williams (LIL REL HOWERY of THE CARMICHAEL SHOW) keeps emphasizing and warning him about. AAAAAANNNNND I am going to stop right there. I had seen and read virtually NO spoilers about this film beforehand, which is downright respectful of movie fans, considering. And in observation of that, I want to keep things going in that vein, and tell you no more. This is one of those movies that is more effective at grabbing you, if you know next to nothing about it.
First off, the scenario itself actually is not the most original for a horror film. But the way it’s handled, by injecting just the right amount of ‘tweaks’ here and there, that makes GET OUT so impressive. What this film does for racism is very similar to what the FINAL DESTINATION franchise did with Death Itself. The ‘main’ plot twist alone is a fantastic argument for bringing subscribers to a “post-racial society” up short, and showing them how off they are. Not only have we not been living in some kind of Xanadu where “racism no longer exists”, but it’s had a way of mutating its form into something that will leave you completely speechless, particularly in this scenario.
I feel I must mention again the impressive sure-footedness on display from Peele with this, his very first full-length feature, (and one without his partner-in-crime, the equally brilliant Keegan Michael Key). I wouldn’t lump this in with first-time home runs like Shyamalan’s THE SIXTH SENSE, but it’s certainly the kind of success other freshman filmmakers wouldn’t object to having associated with their own efforts.
And I cannot say enough about the performances. Keener and Whitford are both devilishly good, especially for Keener, when the film gives a more-than-knowing wink to BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, and Henderson and Gabriel bring that vibe of unsettling creepiness that permeates the slow-burn goodness of the first two acts.
But it’s really Kaluuya and Williams who are going to come out of this as “ones to watch.” Their chemistry together is completely believable, as is what occurs between them when certain dynamics change. (That is about as specific as I’m going to be, so sorry ‘bout that.)
To sum it up, GET OUT isn’t personally would not call “the perfect” or even “the ULTIMATE horror film.” But as a social commentary tucked neatly into a demented family relationships thriller, it most certainly is both perfect AND ultimate for the times we are living in now, and just for my taste, I will be adding this one to my personal home library when the Blu-Ray comes out, as the things it does say – and the WAY it says them – make it worth at least a couple more viewings, and some VERY robust and lively discussion over drinks after each viewing.
From this reviewer, GET OUT gets IN with four-out-of-five stars.