Peele’s directorial debut is a home run.
Get Out is writer Jordan Peele’s (of Key and Peele fame) first attempt at directing a feature film. Odd enough for a debut, Peele steps outside his comedy comfort, opting instead for a horror film fueled by the racial tensions of the modern era. While the horror aspect of the film may be new to Peele, the racial angle he approaches this film certainly isn’t. Anyone familiar with his sketch show (or even last year’s Keanu) knows all too well the insightful and subversive, racial commentary he brings to his work. Much to the success of Get Out, it turns out Peele’s sensibilities translate perfectly to horror.
Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is a photographer who is preparing to meet his girlfriend Rose’s (Allison Williams) parents for the first time. Despite Rose trying to calm Chris’ nerves, he’s exceedingly nervous about his meeting. Rose and her family are WASPs epitomized, and she has failed to mention to them that Chris is black. The initial meeting between Chris and Rose’s family is slightly pleasant with a healthy dose of awkwardness and patronization. Rose’s dad keeps calling Chris “my man” and mentions that he would have voted for Obama a third time. After the initial meeting, Chris notices the weird behavior from the two black servants that Rose’s family employs. As the weekend goes on, everyone’s behavior becomes more and more bizarre.
Honestly, I’m not going to say much more, for fear of robbing the film of its impact. Let’s just say, serious stuff goes down.
Every actor in Get Out turns in a magnificent performance. Kaluuya proves to be a powerhouse with his quiet yet charismatic performance. The dude is just naturally likable and helps keep the film grounded when shit inevitably hits the metaphorical fan. Williams’ Rose is an enjoyable character as well, as she spends the film trying desperately to sympathize and help with Chris’ fears. Rose’s dad is played by Bradley Whitford, who is able to switch from exuding warmth to sinister coldness on a moments notice. The same goes for her mom, who is played by the ever so talented Catherine Keener. Hell, these parents are so creepy they’d make me feel nervous about being around white people, and I’m as white as a polar bear in a damn snow storm.
Peele’s directing is what brings this film together. Working off a solid base from his script, Peele’s use of camera work and timing is what makes Get Out so unnerving. He is perfectly aware of just how long to linger on an awkward moment to really unsettle you and just when to cut the camera to help fuel suspense. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say this was the work of a master of the horror craft. This not only being his debut as a director but his first foray into the world of horror is mighty impressive. To speak in regretful cliches, Get Out literally had me at the edge of my seat at some points. This movie is intense and its pacing pitch-perfect.
That isn’t to say the aren’t moments of levity, however. This is Jordan Peele after all. There are some genuine moments of dark hilarity in a montage of various family friends condescendingly attempting to relate with Chris, stating that “black is in fashion now” or “I’m a big fan of Tiger Woods.” It’s the kind of humor that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Key and Peele sketch.
But the big moments full of laughs are Chris’ conversations on the phone with his friend Rod (played by comedian Lil Rel Howery). Multiple times over the course of the film Chris tries to explain peculiar things he is experiencing while Howery acts as something of an audience surrogate, loudly exclaiming how insane everything is and how the white folks are going to turn him into a sex slave. Howery plays it as if he were acting in a situational comedy and is genuinely hilarious. These moments would feel severely out of place in any other film, but somehow Peele uses it to elevate the film.
Get Out is one hell of a debut for Peele, boasting a fantastic script and confident directing. The film is smart as hell and offers razor-sharp social commentary. And when white nationalists have control of the white house, what better time is there to watch some racists brutally get the shit kicked out of them?