Already one of the most discussed films of 2017, Jordan Peele’s incisive directing debut, Get Out, is a wholly effective satirical horror film, and one of the most exciting debuts in recent memory. Ostensibly about the (near universal) terror of meeting future in-laws for the first time, it quickly transforms into a drama about society and some of the new challenges of race in modern society.
Although the issues of race are some of the most discussed in regards to Get Out, it is first and foremost successful as a horror film, taking advantage of genre conventions in every possible way. Before Get Out can succeed as a social satire, it has to succeed as a horror film, and it does that. There’s a mastery of basic horror conventions, the kinds of sound cues, cuts, and camera angles that are a part of modern horror filmmaking, that creates a bedrock for success here.
Beyond that, of course, is the subtext of the film (which transforms into becoming the text of the film), is that of a social drama about race in America. Get Out is not the first film to explore the challenges of race in America, but has a real understanding of some of the nuances of racism that were exposed under Barack Obama, particularly understanding the challenges of dealing with well-meaning white people who still have racial micro-aggression embedded into their lifestyle; I do wonder if these nuances may no longer be as relevant in the Trump era of American politics, where even more “obvious” racism has come back into the spotlight, but that’s not a fair reflection on the film.
The performances in this film are all strong; Alison Williams delivers a more nuanced and layered performance than what fans of Girls may be used to, with her making some interesting choices that help to mask her intent and her role in some events of the film until the script reveals them. Similarly, Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener present themselves in such a way that the film is simultaneously able to play off of, and against, their histories as actors. Newcomer Daniel Kaluuya, who leads the film, delivers an entirely effective performance as well, particularly given his English background (you wouldn’t be able to tell he’s English).
The standout of the film is Lil’ Rel Howery as TSA Agent Rod Williams, who is simultaneously the comic relief of the film, and also somehow able to see through to the truth of the film’s most preposterous reality. It would be all too easy to play the character entirely for laughs, but Howery also brings enough dramatic chops to allow the character to still feel tethered to the reality of the film.
All in all, Get Out is one of the most stunningly realized debuts in recent memory, and I greatly look forward to seeing Jordan Peele explore genre conventions for years to come.