From the Vault #24: GET OUT (2017)

From 2012 onwards, before developing this blog, I wrote a multitude of reviews on the website Letterboxd. In this irregular series called From the Vault, I’m going to haul these earlier reviews out of mothballs and re-purpose them here.

This one is from March 17th, 2017…

Less a title and more of a demand, Get Out is less provocative than it sounds but packs the kind of wallop you barely expect from a horror picture, and certainly not from a breakthrough, debut feature.

To set the record straight, Jordan Peele hasn’t just made a horror movie but rather a modern, skewed take on Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? if Spencer Tracy by the end didn’t learn any lessons and, well… let’s not spoil what Get Out has to offer. Its stage is psychological, its battlefield not the haunted house or zombie-filled shopping mall but rather the mind. A tense, creeping drama that gets under your skin, makes you laugh and then, finally, explodes outward in the most satisfying, pulpy of ways. Get Out is all of those things.

It also may be one of the best films you see in 2017. Get out! No, really.

Peele has stated that he intends Get Out to be the first of a series of ‘social commentary’ horror thrillers, and one hopes now he gets to make them, but his first is one bursting with a seething, righteous rage on both sides of the race debate, one which perfectly fits our fractured, fearful times.

Daniel Kaluyya–marvellous in the principal role of Chris–portrays a man who begins to become aware of a deeper, subtler reality underneath what seems like a trip to meet the in-laws. The white in-laws of his girlfriend Alison Williams (she of hit TV show Girls), and they are oh so very white. Bradley Whitford, very much looking like a sinister Spencer Tracy with a laid back, affluent all-American charm, with Catherine Keener a mixture of homely mother figure and unerring, piercing therapist. From the off, like Chris, you know something is off, whether it’s the weird, edgy brother challenging him on his ‘genetic superiority’ or the cliched, black housekeeper & groundsman. We’ve stepped back into the 1930’s and that’s entirely intentional.

Indeed you get the sense everything Peele drip feeds us in his careful, skilful script, is intentional. Chris’ journey is akin to peeling back a dark and very sinister apple as the truth about his mighty white surroundings become clear, and this allows Peele to explore a myriad amount of themes and ideas – where does the black man and woman now fit in the American psyche? There is no easy answer and some of the most skin-crawling moments are Whitford or their white, middle-class, mostly elderly friends telling Chris how great black people are or how they would have voted Obama in a third term.

There’s a glamour, literal and metaphorical, over proceedings but it’s so well pulled back by Peele, you’re engrossed enough not to notice his main idea is relatively simple.

That’s always the key to a great film – simplicity and clarity cloaked in depth. Quite how he manages to make a picture so very pointed unnerving but also laugh out loud funny in places is a skill in itself, with LilRel Howery almost stealing the show as Chris’ overtly boisterous, black talking friend Rod, who cuts through the bizarre, Stepford Wives-veneer with a true talking glee. Opposite Kaluyya’s necessarily intense performance, he’s a delight.

Let’s say no more about Get Out, because not knowing much beyond the basic concept will provide its own reward. Jordan Peele doesn’t need a brace of twists or rug pulls to keep the narrative compelling or surprising, allowing his clever and inventive script to carry along a story which, on paper, sounds ludicrous but utterly works as a modern commentary on race and class and the shadow of darker prejudices. A top rate ensemble cast of talented character actors bring out what Peele delivers in his assured, measured direction, and while he almost almost tips too heavily into the absurd once the truth finally becomes clear, man does he earn enough trust to make the payoff worth it.

Get in the cinema, see this, and then get out and see it again.

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