Upon watching Jordan Peele’s Get Out, I was taken aback by its similarity to shows such as The Twilight Zone, The X-Files and even the many short stories written by Ray Bradbury. All of the above have successfully used horror, science-fiction and psychological drama to explore contemporary social issues at the time. Peele follows suit, with a film that is equal parts tense and grossly uncomfortable with a distinct style, a winding narrative and moments of genuine comedy.
When we think of conventional horror cinema (even now, I am unsure whether Get Out belongs under this label), especially in a modern context, we might think of the success of Paranormal Activity, Insidious and Sinister with all their trusty cinematic tropes. Yet, Jordan Peele’s first foray into feature film contains none of these, aside from a few traditional jump-scares here and there. Get Out is a film that is both brilliantly executed and disturbingly poignant. Peele’s examination of micro-aggressions and his purposeful displays of liberal racism contribute toward a cinematic experience which serves both to entertain and make the audience engage and reflect.
“brilliantly executed and disturbingly poignant”
Daniel Kaluuya is captivating as Chris, the film’s protagonist, who is caught in a twisted white enclave whilst meeting his new girlfriend’s parents. Credit must go to Kaluuya, as well as to Peele’s direction and writing, for forging three-dimensional characters in a genre often propped up by stereotypes and clichés. Kaluuya is equally supported by an ensemble cast, including Betty Williams as Georgina and Caleb Landry Jones as Jeremy Armitage, both of whom well exceed the expectations of the genre and turn out stellar performances, furthering the deeply unsettling feelings that Get Out invokes.
Whilst I could go on and gush about Get Out‘s writing and individual performances, what is truly important here is the subject matter and tonality of the film. The audience reacted in unison at moments when injustices are evident. When one of the white characters begins to talk about golf, and mentions to Chris that he “loves Tiger”, the cringes of the audience were audible. However, Peele does not allow the deeply political themes and subject to impede on the narrative of this inventive film. Instead, he allows the political aspect to seep in gradually, with a satirical sting in its tail. The soundtrack, too, is one that supports the narrative whilst highlighting the themes within the film. In the first ten minutes, the audience has heard Flanagan & Allen’s ‘Run Rabbit Run’, Childish Gambino’s ‘Redbone’ and Michael Abel’s score, which includes Swahili voices and an imposing orchestral score.
Perhaps the only drawback in my mind is the convenient ending, which – without spoiling anything – had the opportunity to be rightfully bitter. The film’s original ending was changed post-production, in light of recent events, and personally I cannot help but feel that there was a vast scope in which to make a social comment, embedded in reality, at the ending of a film with such a high concept narrative.
Equally, Peele retains his well-known comic capabilities through the subplot of Chris’ TSA officer friend Rod (“Lil Rel” Howery) on the hunt for Chris, which at times can feel a little shoe-horned in. I myself would have preferred narrative time to be devoted to a greater exposé of the world that Chris has stumbled into, but this of itself is largely thanks to Peele and the production designers, who have created a setting that the audience wants more of. Thankfully, Peele has planned a series of films in the same vein as Get Out to deal with other “social demons”. The question is whether these will be as cuttingly accurate or as inventive as Get Out – I, for one, hope so.
Image: Universal Pictures