Jordan Peele has made a name for himself doing sketch comedy. It was only recently he starred in his first feature film as a lead character in Keanu, which Peele wrote. When it was announced he would be making his directorial debut, one would have assumed that it was likely to be similar to his previous work. But Peele decided to do something entirely different by making a horror film.
“Get Out” is that film, and though technically a horror flick, it taps into other genres as well (including comedy). But what makes “Get Out” stand out as a first film for Peele is its well-crafted handiwork, an excellently constructed cast and a controversial message on race. It is these characteristics that make Peele an interesting director to keep an eye on for years to come.
Rose (Allison Williams) has planned a trip home to introduce Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) to her parents. Chris fears they won’t accept him because he is her first black boyfriend. Upon arrival, it is apparent that Rose’s parents (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener) are okay with Chris, but other aspects of their family home seem a bit off, including the family groundskeeper and maid. The longer Chris spends with Rose’s family, the stranger things become as he attempts to figure out what is going on.
The cast of “Get Out” is comprised of seasoned but relatively unknown actors. That is not to say that audiences wouldn’t recognize them because they likely will, but they aren’t your typical household names. The film’s main actors are very believable in their roles. Although Kaluuya is good as Chris, it’s Williams that makes a star turn in “Get Out.” Her layered portrayal as Rose is nuanced and intense all in the same. It would be a shame if the world didn’t get to see more of her in a starring role. The other character that is particularly interesting is Chris’ friend Rod, and that is much to the perfect delivery by Lil Rel Howery. His involvement is one of the more entertaining contributions to the film.
Craft can be a blurry line when it comes to film. It seems easy for filmmakers to choose big budget concessions over art-house risks. Peele shows his patience as a first-time filmmaker in the way his film is constructed. Almost every decision appears to have motive, many of which don’t connect until the narrative is complete. His exquisite attention to detail is apparent from the opening sequence to the final moments. Certainly his work from the director’s chair on “Get Out” should garner anticipation for future projects. If craft remains a priority, Peele should be in for a long, comfortable career.
What is truly remarkable about “Get Out” is its ability to effectively work in multiple genres. Its Twilight Zone-like tone incorporates the bizarre attributes of science fiction, while capitalizing on classic horror movie tactics to send viewers jumping in their seats. But never is it lost on either Peele or audience members that at its core, “Get Out” is a satire. Immediately the film should draw positive comparisons to a trio collaborations between Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost known as the Cornetto trilogy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End).“Get Out” digs a little deeper, emulating the genres it is honoring more than simply spoofing them.
Some are arguing that “Get Out” is an anti-white movie. Where-as that statement is a bit over the top, it opens up a conversation about the use of race in the film. Is there a purpose for the film’s framing of the “black vs. white” dialog? That is a bit unclear. There doesn’t seem to be a clear motive for making the premise based on race, except to make a statement. Not that there is anything wrong with this, but from a narrative standpoint, it doesn’t serve as integral of a purpose. Regardless, it shouldn’t be seen as offensive. If anything, viewing the film with the race angle should make the audience rightfully uncomfortable. There is too much history to ignore the conversation no matter how it is presented.
Aside from the controversial angle on race that seems to be hogging headlines, Peele has crafted a film worthy of being appreciated by film lovers of all backgrounds. His ability to dip his toes into several different genres is quite impressive as it never feels overcrowded or overwhelming. He rides his cast to a well-executed final product. And without much doubt, his first directorial project was a huge success. The question is whether what was a surprise this time around can be translated into a streak of successes with his next project. It certainly will be worth keeping an eye on.