Get Out smartly balances its tones to provide viewers with an entertaining and clever satire that is equal parts funny and terrifying.
Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) are an interracial couple planning on visiting Rose’s parents for a weekend stay at their countryside home. Chris feels awkward about the situation because Rose’s family does not know he is black, but Rose assures him there is nothing to worry about. She calms Chris’s nerves by saying if her parents were racist, she wouldn’t have suggested they visit them. With Chris’s mind somewhat at ease, the two head out on their trip.
Upon arriving, Chris and Rose are warmly welcomed by Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy Armitage (Catherine Keener), and all seems fine at first glance. However, Chris is put on edge by the discovery of black “servants” who work around the house – Georgina (Betty Gabriel) and Walter (Marcus Henderson) – whose mannerisms and actions are off-putting to him. Convinced there is something sinister happening at the house, Chris has to find a way to escape or he could suffer severe consequences.
Get Out is the directorial debut of Jordan Peele, one half of the famous comedy duo Key and Peele. Based on the premise alone, it was clear the creative team was looking to provide social commentary on current race relations through the lens of a high-concept genre film, trying to give audiences food for thought while also thrilling them with an engrossing story. Fortunately, Peele is largely successful at conveying his vision. Get Out smartly balances its tones to provide viewers with an entertaining and clever satire that is equal parts funny and terrifying.
From the opening scene, it’s clear Get Out is designed to have more of a biting edge than be a straight-up horror movie, but Peele (who also wrote the script) is able to ensure the stakes are never diminished due to the presence of his trademark humor. The film’s first half establishes an eerie and uneasy sense that feels reminiscent of The Twilight Zone at times. Admittedly, the pacing of these sections does drag on occasion, and the main narrative does take a little while to get going. Still, the opening scenes do a good job of setting up Chris’s dynamic with Rose’s relatives, suggesting at the outset that not everything is as smooth as Chris would hope. The screenplay, while relying on some classic horror/thriller clichés, does also pack some twists that elevate the concept so it becomes more than what moviegoers might expect.
Kaluuya is truly the glue of Get Out, creating a likable everyman protagonist who is thrown head-first into an uncomfortable situation. Through his reactions to what’s happening around him, he’s able to be an excellent conduit for the audience members, many of whom will agree with his observations that something at the Armitage estate is wrong. He walks the fine line between paranoia and legitimate concern with ease, allowing people to buy into his plight. Rose is more of a plot device to serve as the catalyst than a fully-formed character (particularly at the beginning), but Williams has some layers to explore throughout the running time to deliver a more well-rounded performance. Chris and Rose make for a nice couple and the two leads have an easygoing chemistry with each other.
In regard to the supporting cast, the major standout is Lil Rel Howery, who plays Chris’s friend, Rod Williams, who tries to help Chris deal with his troubles. Howery steals just about every scene he’s in, responsible for most of the comedy in Get Out. It’s through this character Peele’s voice really shines through, and for many Rod will be the best part of the whole feature. The laughs Howery delivers feel natural, providing plenty of levity without detracting from the central conflict. Peele knows he’s working with something that on the surface is a bit absurd, and keeps tongue firmly planted in cheek whenever Howery is on the screen, which is appreciated. Whitford and Keener are fine as Rose’s parents, but there simply isn’t much to the roles as written. Through their performances, the two veterans are able to mask Dean and Missy’s true intentions early on, though their characters aren’t ultimately all that memorable.
Though Get Out reads as something that could be highly polarizing, Peele deserves a lot of credit for gracefully handling the obvious racial components of the film in a way that isn’t heavy-handed and honestly services the story at hand. This is undoubtedly a unique perspective for a mainstream horror movie, but it remains accessible to casual viewers willing to go along for the ride. Peele is able to take something that can be terrifying (visiting your significant other’s parents for the first time) and dials it up to a crazy and wild “what if?” scenario that frankly may not be all that unrealistic. Granted, the humor and basic set-up may not everyone’s cup of tea, but Peele makes it work and shows he has potential as a helmsman.
In the end Get Out is a crowd-pleasing and fascinating thriller that doesn’t quite reach “great,” but still has plenty to recommend. The pacing may suffer for stretches and some people might roll their eyes at some well-known horror tropes that rear their heads (especially towards the end), but those shortcomings aren’t enough to derail the picture. Deftly combining horror and comedy, Get Out makes for a fun time at the movies, unraveling an original (and amusing) mystery that keeps the audience involved from start to finish. It’s certainly worth the price of admission in theaters.
Get Out is now playing in U.S. theaters. It runs 103 minutes and is rated R for violence, bloody images, and language including sexual references.
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