Warning: Major SPOILERS for Get Out ahead
As one half of the groundbreaking comedy duo Key & Peele, Jordan Peele has emerged as one of America's foremost comedy voices on the subject of race issues in the popular culture. But while his new horror-thriller Get Out indeed casts a dark satirical eye on many of those same issues, this time he's not joking around. The film frames the familiar anxieties of modern black/white intercultural awkwardness as a potential mask for something much more sinister, and the result is a suspenseful, genuinely scary film that would almost certainly still be effective with some other topical reference point at its center but still cuts extra deep because of the one it has.
It also plays fair. Despite the ultimate reveal of what's been going on taking Get Out in an unexpected, genre-bending direction, all of the teases, misdirections and hidden-in-plain-sight clues fit together logically as the answers to a satisfying mystery story. Even still, if you've just come back from the film nursing any lingering questions about what it was all supposed to mean, here's the place to go back over everything.
In the film's "cold open," a yet-unnamed Black man (Lakeith Stanfield) who has become lost in an eerily quiet upscale suburban neighborhood finds himself being followed by an anonymous car in a scenario clearly meant to evoke memories of recent vigilante shooting incidents like the shooting of Trayvon Martin. When he stops to confront his pursuer, however, he finds himself instead confronting a strange figure wearing a medieval-style iron helmet who puts him into a headlock, renders him unconscious and stuffs him into the trunk.
The main storyline, unfolding immediately thereafter, follows aspiring photographer Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) as he undertakes a trip with his girlfriend of five months, Rose Armitage (Allison Williams), to spend the weekend with her well-to-do parents - whom Chris will be meeting for the first time. This is a prospect that's making him nervous because Rose has not informed them that he's Black, which she assures him will not be an issue, but he's increasingly certain will not be the case. While en route their car strikes a deer on the road, drawing the attentions of a police officer whom Rose upbraids for racially profiling Chris.
As promised, Rose's parents (Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford) are a pair of properly-tolerant liberals perfectly happy for their daughter to be dating a Black man - in fact, they're a little too happy. They immediately shower Chis with earnest stories about how the family's late patriarch was a marathon runner who qualified second behind Jesse Owens for the U.S. Olympic team, how they desperately wish they could've voted for Barack Obama a third time and even the twinge of shame they feel at being rich white people with a pair of Black servants (handyman Walter and housekeeper Georgina). It's all just a bit... "much," and that's before Chris meets Caleb Landry Jones as Rose's aggressive lacrosse-playing younger brother, who muses about how Chris' "genetic makeup" would make him a great mixed martial-arts fighter, and who likes to put people in headlocks (uh-oh...)
Things only get weirder from there: Rose's mom is a hypnotherapist who's a little too eager to help cure Chris of his smoking habit through an unsettling procedure that involves sending his consciousness into an out-of-body state she calls "the sunken place." He can't turn to Walter and Georgina for sympathy - they're strangely detached, alternately seeming to be in a trance or prone to odd behaviors: She likes to stare at her own reflection, he runs at top speed around the house (marathon-style) for exercise in the middle of the night. They both also talk and behave "differently," as though they're much older and more compliant than they should be given their relative ages in 2017; as Chris puts it while venting over the phone to his friend Rod (Lil Rel Howery), "It feels like they missed the revolution."
When a group of the Armitage's other wealthy friends show up for a garden party, they also all behave in just-inappropriate-enough ways; over-complimenting Chris's physique, asking about the "advantages" of African-American heritage and gushing about their admiration for Black celebrities like Tiger Woods. While Chris and Rose are out for a walk, we glimpse the partygoers playing a game of "bingo" that slowly reveals itself to be a kind of auction where they seem to be placing bids on Chris - which would be unnerving enough without Rod having already theorized that Rose's mother is hypnotizing Black people to become sex-slaves (or, rather, that Chris has wandered into "Some serious Eyes Wide Shut s--t!")
- Get Out (2017) release date: Feb 24, 2017