Get Out (2017)
Written/Directed by: Jordan Peele
Auteur’s debut heralds new agent provocateur
Get Out is a mischievous mixture of mystery, thriller, horror and comedy. The writing and direction boast all the hallmarks of Jordan Peele’s mad mind: gross-out gags, impressively high production values, convincing characters, black comedy and biting satire. Peppered with mordant moments, Get Out is entertainingly twisted. It is sufficiently self-aware and genre referential to acknowledge a swathe of past classics, both notable and notorious. As one half of the Comedy Central duo Key & Peele, whose subversive sketches observationally riff on society and race in modern America, Peele’s key ingredient is the infusion of social comment on race, racism, race fetishism and cultural appropriation in the 21st century.
If you don’t like cinema to challenge or provoke, maybe this one isn’t for you. If you do, then dive on in. Following an ominous opening cutaway, we meet Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) – young, black and living in New York City. He accepts the invitation to visit the family estate of his white girlfriend, Rose Armitage (Allison Williams), in New York State for the weekend. During the highway drive upstate, a sense of foreboding rears its head early. The world of the city is very different to that of the country. We quickly learn that the matter of Chris’s skin colour has yet to be broached by Rose with her family. To say too much more would deprive the film its chance to weave its web, cast its spell and take you along for the surprising thrill-ride. While the film might feel over the top for some, its execution is integral to its aesthetic. With an idiosyncratically weird mash-up charm, it endears itself to both mainstream and genre tastes.
The pacing is excellent and Jordan Peele knows how to ratchet up the tension. The delicately balanced binary of its ridiculous/not so ridiculous and surreal/too real postulate is genuinely gripping. The allusions to society and history throughout are compelling and confronting. For all of it to work, the casting needs to be on point.
Daniel Kaluuya is a real coup for this film. Most recently appearing alongside Emily Blunt in Sicario (2015), I can still barely believe he’s British and not American. His accent is just that convincing. I love Idris Elba, but you could still hear his accent in The Wire. Kaluuya gets to flex his emotional range and does so with aplomb. Jordan Peele has also managed to assemble a cast which is just the right amount of famous – not complete unknowns but not absolute A-list megastars either. Flanking Allison Williams (Girls), Bradley Whitford (The West Wing) and Catherine Keener (Captain Phillips), play the Armitage parents. Caleb Landry Jones (X-Men: First Class, Antiviral), rounds out the family unit as Rose’s manic brother. With his primetime pedigree, it’s fitting that Peele has called upon established TV talent. Prolific character actor Stephen Root also stars. Some slight underacting (Allison Williams) and overacting (Caleb Landry Jones) doesn’t really detract from the film and feels vaguely deliberate regardless. What matters most is the resonance and performance of Kaluuya, appointed navigator in this eerie fable of black experience. He does not disappoint.
One scene towards the end of the film (involving a crime scene and a police vehicle) really hits its mark. There is a strange symbiotic pleasure in knowing how much Jordan Peele relishes taking his audiences for a ride – the lifeblood of his sketches with comedy partner Keegan Michael Key. You may also have seen the pair playing off one another as the bumbling cop coupling in season one of FX’s Fargo.
Get Out is not for everyone, but it’s a real ride if you can stomach some of the characteristically provocative scenes, challenging themes and confronting humour. It has already grossed over $100 million from its $5 million budget and received widespread critical praise. Get in on one of the most talked about movies this year. Hypnotic.
Four out of five spoons in a tea-cup.
General release from May 4 at Palace Electric, Dendy, Hoyts Belconnen, Hoyts Woden, Event Cinemas Manuka and Limelight Cinemas Tuggeranong.
Further Viewing: Keanu, Key & Peele, Fargo (TV Series)
See Also: The Loved Ones, Funny Games, The Human Centipede, Deliverance, Psycho, Scream, Antiviral