NOTE: This is a revised opinion that represents my current thoughts as opposed to my previous review. You can find the original review right here.
When I first saw Get Out in the theater, I came out thinking that it was merely good; yet it managed to stick inside of my head far more in the days that came afterward. Not merely because of the fact that I was stunned Jordan Peele of all people was the director, but the scathing social commentary of this work is one among many things that makes Get Out among the most effective films of our own time. Effective in a sense that it plays as a reminder that we must change for the better and not just wear it on our sleeves that we are going to “accept” a change in pace. But because Jordan Peele chooses to tell us this story as a horror film, it gives us a grasp on a greater truth. It may not strike on the first watch, but knowing more about the world it presents and how it reflects our own is the most terrifying thing that Get Out opens us to.
Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) is an African-American man in a relationship together with the white Rose Armitage (Allison Williams). Rose invites Chris to meet her family, to which he is reluctant because he is unsure of how her family would feel about the fact that they are in an interracial relationship. They appear to be friendly enough, with Dean Armitage (Bradley Whitford) telling Chris that “he would have voted Obama for a third term” and having hired a black housekeeper and groundskeeper to work for the family. Chris is made nervous by the odd welcome, but that is where something far more sinister lurks. The overly polite nature of the family and their many other caucasian guests is a doorway to a nightmare that is incited by the racial paranoia that Chris feels inside.
The key to Jordan Peele’s success with Get Out is the subtlety, in creating an environment that looks and feels just like our very own. And in this subtlety it reflects the fact that so much of the worst traumas in other people are often going unnoticed. Given as the film is about the black experience as told from a black filmmaker’s eyes, it was nonetheless an important issue to talk about because something about the supposed “acceptance” that people think they have achieved because of the fact that they have elected a black president. In order to appease other black individuals, they want to show themselves as welcoming – but it isn’t the fact that they hate them that makes said perspective feel uncomfortable, it is the envy. This isn’t so much a film about “white guilt” but rather white envy which leads to the racism that Chris experiences in Get Out – and in this current political climate it couldn’t feel any more timely.
It all feels uncomfortable from the idea that Chris is the center of attention in a neighbourhood where the vast population is indeed, white. But among many reasons Daniel Kaluuya’s performance as the paranoid Chris is so perfect is because you can feel the nervousness that he feels from being inside an environment from being the center of attention, only for being different from others. But everywhere a black person is present, there comes the strange behaviour on their part channeling the work of Ira Levin, namely The Stepford Wives. The satirical aspect of Get Out is clear from that influence, because it reflects the perfect culmination of how blind a sense of “acceptance” of another culture truly is. It isn’t so much “acceptance” but rather instead envy from from people, that relies upon presumptions about black people – which in itself is racist. And this discomfort is what helps to make a stellar horror film, because you know it is Jordan Peele telling a story about experience. And all of it is shut out because they are in a white society, represented perfectly by the scenes where Chris is trapped in “the sunken place.”
But how exactly can white people feel the experience of a black individual? It all makes sense in the climax, which is where everything takes a turn for the worst. The idea of “trying to look through the eyes” of another person goes beyond just trying to see how they feel, but by replacing themselves with black people. And even if it feels like such a drastic shift in tone from what had been witnessed prior, it is also most fitting because of how subversive the idea is. It’s a subversive idea of tackling racism in society because usually we see attacks being launched against the far-right and their hatred of minorities, yet here we have an attack against white liberals and how they envy black people so much to the point that “they want to be black people,” thus effectively replacing them. That alone is the most frightening thing that Get Out leaves you to think about, because it leaves you to ask yourself if this can really be considered “progress.” To these people, Chris isn’t just a “black person,” but a trophy for the white people’s own “progress” in society for them to woo over.
It’s impressive to think about how Jordan Peele would have managed to accomplish this much from a budget of less than $5 million. We’ve already known the name for being one of the funniest people on television as one half of Key & Peele, and he still leaves his comedic touch present through Lil Rel Howery’s character (who is absolutely hilarious and deserves far more than what he is receiving) – but you can definitely feel where his own experience as a comedian has influenced his skill for the horror genre. Whether it be the timing of a jump scare or how he forms the atmosphere all around his characters, it feels like the polar opposite to what he’s already been able to show for comedy. But the sheer nuance that Peele shows behind the camera, whether it be in the subtle build of the atmosphere or how he sneaks in his influences as a filmmaker, it’s all stunning for a film made on a low budget and for a debut effort.
There’s far too much about Get Out to love that I somehow missed on my first viewing. Sure, the horror influences may be rather basic from the surface but beneath that, it all plays against expectations to the point that it is unbelievably satisfying. But even smaller moments manage to get under your own skin because Jordan Peele creates an environment where you know you can recognize every one of its occupants as an actual realm for yourself to be within. And at the same time, what Peele covers here is a power that is underestimated by many, it is the power of first-hand experience. It is this power that made an unsettling experience with Get Out, and it is this power that also makes it one of the most important films of our era. And like that, it becomes a starting point for reflection about how we can truly move forward in the world we live in. It is more necessary than ever.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Universal.
Directed by Jordan Peele
Screenplay by Jordan Peele
Produced by Jason Blum, Edward H. Hamm Jr., Sean McKittrick, Jordan Peele
Starring Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Stephen Root, Lakeith Stanfield, Catherine Keener, Lil Rel Howery
Release Year: 2017
Running Time: 103 minutes