OP-ROB RATING: LEGEND
Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) is a talented black photographer and Brooklyn native who has fallen in love with a white girl named Rose Armitage (Allison Williams). Having dated for nearly six months, Rose convinces Chris to take a weekend trip to the countryside so he can meet her family. Chris is concerned that the Armitages are going to be unpleasantly surprised by the fact that he is black, but Rose assures him not to worry. Upon arriving to the estate Chris is greeted by Rose’s parents Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy (Catherine Keener), a neurosurgeon and psychiatrist, respectively. Chris is also introduced to the Armitage’s black house workers, a maid named Georgina (Betty Gabriel) and a handyman named Walter (Marcus Henderson).
Right off the bat things at the Armitage house seem a bit strange, especially with Georgina and Walter, both of whom act unwelcoming towards Chris. Furthermore, when he sneaks outside in the middle of the night to smoke a cigarette, Chris sees Walter sprinting around the yard at full speed. Rose’s parents seem normal enough at first. Dean gives off a distinct eastern white liberal vibe as he shows off the cultural artwork in the house and comments on how much he hates the “look” of having black workers. Missy is somewhat more reserved, but offers to help Chris with his addiction to smoking cigarettes by using hypnosis. When Chris reenters the house from his smoke break, Missy lures him into her therapy office where she hypnotizes him into “the sunken place”. The rest of the visit plays out with an ever-growing sense of unrest for Chris.
As a horror movie, “Get Out” is truly first class. The climax of the film is shocking, and debut director Jordan Peele masterfully executes the detailed build up. As Chris interacts with the Armitages and their friends he slowly begins to feel more and more uncomfortable. His genuine love for Rose keeps him from leaving until the family can ensnare him in their sinister operation. The more comic side of the film is shouldered by Rodney (Lil Rel Howery), a TSA agent and Chris’ best friend. Chris contacts Rodney several times throughout the film to update him on the increasingly strange visit. The things that Chris observes all provide little clues to his, and the audience’s final revelation. It is only after the film that you look back and think, “Ah-ha! That’s what that meant…” The all-around dynamism of “Get Out” also shows Peele’s appreciation of the horror genre as a filmmaker. “Get Out” harkens back to classics such as “Rosemary’s Baby” with its meticulously executed buildup; “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” with its theme of hypnotism and disassociation, and “The Evil Dead” with its gory finish.
The most impressive aspect of “Get Out” however, is not the overall quality of the filmmaking, but rather the complex racial message that underlies the film. “Get Out” is a critique of a growing faction of modern progressive whites that want to absorb black culture, but not actually interact with black people in a meaningful way. In “Get Out”, these white people’s goals are manifested in an evil and incredibly creepy way that I won’t spoil. But it also happens in everyday life through small, seemingly harmless interactions. Peele subtly points out some of these racial mannerisms throughout the film. For example, when Dean first meets Chris he feels the need to confidently confide that he had voted twice for Barack Obama and that he would have voted for him a third time if he were on the ballot, adding, “best President of my lifetime.” Many of the Armitage’s friends also make comments championing the athletic accomplishments of black athletes including Tiger Woods and Jesse Owens. The white people in “Get Out” sincerely appreciate black culture as it relates to athletic competition and “being cool”. But do they see blacks as anything more than just commodities for better performance and social perception?
Overall, “Get Out” packs the punch of a generational horror film infused with a complex and bravely frank racial message. Films such as this do not come around often, if ever. After walking out of the theater, besides feeling giddily shocked by the thrills of the film, I also found myself asking questions about my own relationship with black culture and black people in a way I had never before considered. In the unraveling of its story, “Get Out” forces viewers to reconsider the details in the scenes and even the meaning of the title of the film. More importantly, it steers viewers to reevaluate their own personal understanding of race in America.