“A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”
If you know who Jordan Peele is, then the first word that comes to mind when you think of him is almost definitely “comedy”. Peele is most famous as being half of sketch comedy duo Key & Peele and for last year’s Keanu; both of which he wrote and starred in. Regular roles on Bob’s Burgers and the Fargo TV show further solidify his career as a comedic presence. Get Out, however, has opened the world up to an entirely different area of Peele’s creative talent and it is something to be seen.
Get Out is the story of Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya, Black Mirror, Sicario); a young African American photographer in New York City; who is heading upstate for the weekend to meet the parents of his new Caucasian girlfriend, Rose Armitage (Allison Williams, Girls). The focus here on race may seem unnecessary to some in these modern, multicultural times; but race is absolutely as key factor in the construction of this story and is kept at the forefront of the audience’s collective mind as the story progresses.
Rose’s family consists of her psychiatrist mother Missy (Catherine Keener, Into The Wild), neurosurgeon father Dean (Bradley Whitford, The West Wing) and medical student brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones, X-Men: First Class); all of whom demonstrate differing levels of unusual behaviour from their first interactions with Chris. Chris naturally attributes this to something entirely unsurprising; the underlying prejudice of a wealthy, suburban, liberal white family. For while the Armitages make it very clear that they have no problem with their daughter dating a black man, the subconscious prejudices and stereotypes can’t help but work their way through. This something which Chris was expecting; but his own distrust of wealthy white people is what causes him to doubt what he’s seeing around him… and that is what sets him up for his downfall. One of his first causes for concern comes from discovering the Armitage’s have two black employees; the groundskeeper Walter (Marcus Henderson, Whiplash) and housekeeper Georgina (Betty Gabriel, Good Girls Revolt); the reasons only escalate from there. Chris’ perception of potentially racist undertones in those around causes him to doubt the very real danger that he’s in; dismissing the clues in front of him as his own paranoia.
Any further discussion of plot would rob the future viewer of the journey which Peele takes us on throughout this film, and that is something I want to protect. Peele’s structuring of Chris’ interactions with every character at the Armitage house; be they lead or supporting, is superb. Nearly every person we meet at the Armitage house says or does something that makes Chris skeptical of his situation, and some begin to make him downright frightened. The Armitage family are key in beginning this feeling of unease; Missy and Dean outwardly present themselves as warm and welcoming of their daughter’s new boyfriend; but the underlying tension felt by Chris is transmitted to the audience; exacerbated by bizarre run-ins with Georgina and Walter.
The full supporting cast is excellent; but particular mention must go to Rod Williams (Lil Rel Howery, The Carmichael Show). Rod is Chris’ best friend and the only person in NYC who knows where Chris has gone for the weekend; his phone calls with Chris, followed by his investigation into Chris’ disappearance, are practically the sole-source of levity in the film. They are welcome and wonderfully crafted; lifting the veil of tension from the audience for a moment’s breather, without distracting from the increasing peril in the main story.
The star of Get Out is Daniel Kaluuya in more than just name. Those familiar with some of his previous roles, especially his starring role in one episode of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, will be aware that he has the chops for a role like this, but he really takes it to the next level under Peele’s direction. There is no wasted movement; every twitch, glance and smirk portrays the whirlwind of emotions, thoughts and fears within Chris as he navigates his way through his very unusual weekend away. In particular, his physicality during the moment when he finally realizes just how much danger he’s really in is stunning; a stand-out moment in film not only this year, but possibly this decade. Allison Williams plays a blinder as well; while Rose’s character arc is significantly different to Chris’, the revelations that affect Chris affect her almost as much, and she takes the journey along with him brilliantly.
It’s almost a shame that it was released when it was; the Academy can often forget films released this early in the year and it deserves a rake of nominations. Kaluuya is definitely deserving of a Best Actor nod and Peele Best Director; never mind Best Picture. Get Out represents Jordan Peele stepping out of his comedic comfort zone, and in doing so he has taken our comfort zones and crushed them. I’m finding it difficult to think of a film coming out this year which could take the audience on the same emotional journey as this; a new bar has been laid and it’ll be exciting to see who can raise it.
Don’t be put off by the horror tag: I personally don’t feel like that’s an appropriate descriptor. This film contains pretty much no “jump-scares” (in fact, the main one is in the trailer); instead, Peele uses the runtime to build the underlying fear within Chris Washington and takes us along for that journey. If horror is a rollercoaster, then this is a long walk through a dense forest at night: everything around you feels like it’s out to get you, even though you know that it really isn’t.
Except this time, it is.
Get Out is currently still showing at the Odeon, Showcase and Vue cinemas; and runs at Phoenix Cinema from April 14th to April 17th.