I, like many of the people that saw ‘Get Out’, know Jordan Peele as the hilarious sketch comedian from popular show ‘Key and Peele’. Their skits went viral, they were legends and rightly so, their stuff was hilarious. Peele in particular gained fame for his uncanny impression of Barack Obama. The point I’m trying to make is that, when I first heard that a Jordan Peele was making a ‘social thriller’ about racism, I thought “Wow, there must be another Jordan Peele in show-business. How could this wonderful comedian make a horror satire about racism? But he did, and boy did it take off. Boasting a 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (ranking it as the 4th highest rated movie of all time), Peele created a classic, a film that will pass down the generations as one of the finest works of cinema in the decade.
Genre is an issue with this film. The Golden Globes called it a comedy, Peele calls it a documentary, Wikipedia calls it a horror, and most call it a thriller. To be honest, I have no idea what to call it. I think I’ll go with ‘thrilling social commentary’. It is also actually funny; if you went into the movie with no information at all, from the first half hour or so it would be easy to think that you’re watching a black comedy. It’s not a horror in the sense that there are no scary parts, no real jump scares and no huge gore, but it seems that Peele samples from other classic horror movies (you can notice subtleties from ‘A Clockwork Orange’ for one) to almost poke fun at the genre, and the many overused tropes that go with it. This film is SMART. Like seriously smart. The social satire is biting and has cut deep in the US in particular, the script is masterfully created, and the number of small details is just staggering. There are thousands of fan-theories about this film out there, and that’s a testament to the sheer detail that Jordan Peele put in. I could talk for hours about all the tiny things that make sense once you know what’s really going on, but I’ll leave those to you to look for. All I’ll say is that firstly, this film requires repeated views (just don’t tell Peele how many times you’ve watched it), and my favourite detail is that when Rod is at the airport, we hear the flight number 237 being played over the PA system, a reference to the hotel room number in Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’. I’m going to try to not go into all the small details, but that’s my favourite.
The cast in this is on another level. Daniel Kaluuya announces himself to the world, and he is incredible. Fingers crossed he wins the Academy Award, he deserves it. It’s a breath of fresh air to have a horror protagonist who actually has a brain, and makes similar decisions that we ourselves would make. Chris is a subtle character, with few emotional scenes, but Kaluuya’s subtleties are as good as you could hope for from an actor. His friend, Rod, portrayed by Lil Rel Howery, is also excellent, and if there was an Academy Award for Best Friend, Rod wins hands down. More than just comic relief, Rod basically serves as the audience throughout, saying what we’re all thinking. Keener, Whitford and Jones are all chilling and unnerving as the creepy white family, but their performances are all eclipsed by Allison Williams. It’s worth noting that the horror film genre all stems from Gothic literature, an 18th century movement involving novels such as ‘The Castle of Otranto’, ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘The Monk’. In Gothic fiction, women, and beautiful women especially were portrayed as a ‘damsel in distress’; weak, vulnerable and needing saving. However, Peele flips this on its head, and casts the beautiful woman as the ultimate evil. Williams is truly frightening, seemingly innocent at first before the iconic reveal, a scene that will go down in history I’m sure. After that, we see the psychopath she really is (I mean, who eats fruit loops with the milk on the side…). The acting, cinematography and script are all top draw, ticking all my boxes for a great film.
I could quite literally write a 5,000 word essay on what this film is really about, and all the details that show us, but I’ll try and be succinct. Not only is Peele commenting on open racism, he shows us the danger of concealed racism from left-wing liberals who “would have voted for Obama a third time”. It’s a film that made white people uncomfortable to be white, and that was the whole point. From the minute Chris arrives at the house, we feel uneasy, like something is off, and this is odd because the family are all kind and welcoming and by no means openly racist. In fact, it would be difficult to describe any of the family as your normal ‘racist’. They don’t hate black people, they admire them. But it’s the mentality of seeing black people as ‘them’, as a commodity to be used to make yourself look more socially developed that Peele seems to dislike.
This film is littered with clues and hints about the real meaning, from the music down to the clothes. During the family reunion, we see all the family wearing some item of red clothing, but Chris is in a blue shirt. Even Andre, who initially has no red, is handed a red handkerchief. Even the game they play to auction off Chris, bingo, has a purpose. Peele said that he wanted to put in “white-people games” that black people are “not necessarily familiar with”, hence the bingo and hence the lacrosse stick. One of the most subtle details, and one I only picked up on my 5th watch when I was practically taking notes as I watched, comes when Rod is doing his research and a commercial comes on the TV with the slogan “A mind is a terrible thing to waste”. This was in fact the slogan for the United Negro College Fund, an iconic campaign that is used sadly ironically here, and really sums up the whole motivation of the film. One of Peele’s main influences in this film was ‘The Stepford Wives’, a 1975 movie based on the 1972 novel by Ira Levin. There are a huge amount of parallels to be drawn between the two films, as Levin’s novel is almost a ‘Get Out’ for women rather than black people. Both protagonists in the films are photographers, and so when they are at their most vulnerable, the camera emphasises their eyes; a small but definitely deliberate detail from Peele. Finally the soundtrack. I’ve already said previously how much I love Childish Gambino, and ‘Redbone’ is still being played daily, so to hear it as the title song in this film was awesome, and the warning lyrics to “stay woke” are particularly apt. Similarly, the background ‘African’ music we hear throughout was composed for the movie by Michael Abels, and is called ‘Sikiliza Kwa Wahenga’, meaning “listen to (your) ancestors” and the Swahili lyrics in the song supposedly translate to “something bad is coming. Run.” In all honesty, I found that detail on Google; I don’t speak Swahili. But come on, that’s cool.
In all, this movie was a triumph. For a budget of $4.5m, in a directorial debut from a sketch comedian, it’s quite exceptional. The details are immense, the message is important and the execution is flawless. It deserves every bit of the praise it’s getting, and I hope it sweeps the Oscars in a few weeks time. There aren’t many movies that you just know will still be being shown in 50 years time but trust me, this is one of them.
Best scene: Finding those keys
Best character: Rod
Best actor/actress: Allison Williams
Best quote: “I’m TS-motherfuckin’-A. We handle shit. That’s what we do. Consider this situation fuckin’ handled.” – Rod