Disclaimer: In these Wild and sensitive times, it is prudent to be mindful of the tumultuous nature of America’s precarious racial-political situation whenever one offers an opinion even remotely connected to the concept of race. It is no small commitment to offer up an opinion on any aspect of our experience, be it a divisive news story, or a bold film that conquers themes of racial insecurity. I am unafraid of the rejection of my beliefs or opinions, but it can grow wearisome trying to present, for the mob of public opinion, the credentials and experiential requirements for even being welcome in a discussion regarding race. As such, it is not lightly that I take this bold venture of reviewing the Jordan Peele thriller Get Out as a white man. I reluctantly accept this endeavor for two reasons: one is because Get Out is a singularly spectacular thriller, and two is because of the inspiring straight-faced courage Director Peele and his team had in tackling the very real subject of racial insecurity. It is, no doubt, a meta conversation that I think this film intends for us to have. I am aware that some may not share my opinion and that is okay, I will follow the example set by the film and boldly offer it without regret or worry.
My Mom is a horror/thriller junkie and so it takes an extra something for me to even consider watching one. Not because I was scared to, (my Mom got that out of me whilst young) but because they kinda bore me. The tropes, the all too familiar themes, and the lack of commentary this genre usually provides are all tired drawbacks that make these films hard to be fresh.
Get Out juxtaposes almost parody-like tropes of the horror/thriller genre over a blistering but non-condemning racial discussion. The very intro plays out like a story you may have heard on the evening news and that is perhaps the most frightening thing the movie puts forth: one can be targeted for discriminate malice for race alone. This uncomfortable tension is not lifted even once throughout the film. At the same time, it constantly betrays expectations in a very satisfying ways. Scenes that elicited gasps from more green horror viewers, managed to get belly laughs from horror veterans. It struck a rare balance so that two extremely different responses to the same visual or musical queue could get two contradictory responses in a single audience. For that alone, I am glad I saw it in theaters.
Daniel Kaluuya’s portrayal of Chris is wrought with insecurity, annoyance, and quiet distaste for the soft bigotry ever present in his situation. Chris goes with his white girlfriend, Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) to meet her family for a little while. Kaluuya’s face is able to convey that sense of dread with the approaching of a potentially uncomfortable situation looming ahead from the start. He doesn’t really want to do this, but obligation to his girlfriend and a desire to overcome the awkwardness of such tensions allows him to press forward. This is a scene many of us, yes even white folks, have been in the center of: the chilling discomfort of being the obvious man out and the unwelcome spotlight that comes with it. That’s why Get Out succeeds as a concept, that kind of social isolation can be experienced by anyone: by the situation Chris is in, by the white guy who stumbles in to the black salon looking for a haircut, by the gay guy at a mostly heterosexual party, and even by the one Patriots fan at your Super Bowl Party. There is a human dread of being in the minority, be it racial or otherwise. Yet being in the racial minority can have sinister undertones with altogether dark historic implications. Get Out amplifies this dread from an uncomfortable insecurity to a full-fledged, suspense-filled film. The concept is presented with boldness and can lead to uncomfortable conclusions.
Having mentioned the subtle and masterful performance of Daniel Kaluuya, I cannot help but turn praise to the rest of the cast as well- especially LilRel Howery. Howery is the overstatement to Kaluuya’s understatement, he is the outside observer in the situation and observing the events via phone calls and is as removed as the viewer. Yet for Rod, Howery’s character, there is no wool over his eyes as is the case with the viewer. He is a proxy for the viewer, offering cryptic (if not comical) commentary of the situation while being free from social fluff. He can tell something diabolical is brewing because he doesn’t have to put up a front or wear a mask. As an outside observer, he is not slave to those social delicacies that are keeping his friend Chris strapped to a horrifying situation. There are a few more black characters at the Armitage estate but there is something horrifyingly wrong with them. They seem incapable of relating to Chris, they a complacent in their seemingly demeaning position as house staff. Even direct encounters with them are unhelpful and downright terrifying to Chris. Marcus Henderson and Betty Gabriel do an excellent job of selling these dejected, humiliated, and yet deeply terrified phantoms of people. I say “phantom” not because they are ghosts, there are no ghosts in Get Out (the most terrifying part of all), but because they are very clearly not themselves.
Get Out is rife with genuine social commentary and not the grating or preachy kind. Concepts of soft and hard bigotry and quiet and loud racism were played like a change of melody in an off-key song (which is how suspense is supposed to feel). Never once did it feel the need to demonize any given people-group and always kept an uneasy, awkward tone: the tone of cultures clashing that are struggling with understanding one another much less living together in any real or meaningful way. Race can be a commodity to be exploited or an Achilles’ Heel depending on what to who. Get Out is neither a slam nor a slap. Rather it is a soft spoken comment about the tension posited by racial awareness in our identities and the identities of others. It doesn’t ask us to celebrate or condemn differences, but rather to reflect whether or not it is really worth losing one’s own identity and soul, smothered beneath superficial masks, just to be comfortable with skin-level differences. That’s the beauty of Get Out, Chris is a victim until he decides not to be. When he finally takes a stand against his wicked situation, the audience was cheering at his every action and totally invested in his overcoming. Fully invested.
I must declare Get Out completely Sane.
A must see for all kinds of folks. Whether you are black, white, homosexual, or even a Patriots fan- Get Out is a must see.