Movie Review: “Get Out”

Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford
Jordan Peele

Jordan Peele’s first foray behind the camera as a director is funny, thrilling and often frightening. The writer-director balances an array of tones, bringing them together seamlessly in a movie with a lot to offer. “Get Out” is a film that works on many levels. It’s a surprisingly thoughtful and relevant thriller with plenty of ideas to go along with the scares and laughs.

The problem with writing about “Get Out” is that many of its strengths lie in the third act, where questions are answered and storylines are paid off in satisfying and unexpected ways. But part of the appeal of Peele’s debut is that it’s hardly predictable. When Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) goes to spend the weekend with his white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) and her parents, it’s not easy to predict everything that’s about to happen. Her parents, Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy Armitage (Catherine Keener), aren’t always welcoming, which is likely why Rose didn’t tell them that her new boyfriend was black. But while Chris is willing to forgive Dean’s racially insensitive remarks, as the weekend progresses, he stumbles upon a terrifying discovery that puts his life in danger.

Peele’s vision for a thriller doesn’t involve characters making terrible decisions to move the story along. Chris and his best friend Rod (the terrific LilRel Howery) are sometimes even a few steps ahead of the antagonists. Though Rod isn’t present for the horrors that take place at the Armitage home, he’s worried about his friend, checking in on him every once in a while to make sure he’s okay. When he realizes everything is far from all right, he makes the right call, like Chris often does in the movie.

There are some genuine scares in the film, and they don’t always involve blood or someone being chased. When Missy hypnotizes Chris, he goes into the “sunken place,” where he falls in an endless pit within his body, watching his life from a distance somewhere buried deep within himself. A part of what makes “Get Out” effective is that it’s conceptually horrific. The sunken place is a remarkable visual, but it’s also an absolutely horrifying idea and a visualization of what Chris feels. When tears stream down Chris’ cheeks, the fear is genuine; Kaluuya is a natural in every scene.

Peele’s script is every bit as refined as his direction. There’s a hero to root for, it has believable and frightening villains, the danger and stakes are always rising, the twists come with real shock, and the laughs, as expected from the co-creator of “Key & Peele,” are hilarious. The jokes are as well-timed as the scares, which are frequently shot with some visceral, handheld camerawork, placing the audience in the action with Chris. When Peele turns up the heat towards the end, the quick and sharp pace he maintains is both immersive and impressive.

The writer-director offers up something new with his first movie. It’s an exciting directorial debut that shows Peele is equally adept with drama, horror, comedy and character. The intimate scenes between Chris and Rose add real emotion to “Get Out,” especially in the scene where they have an honest discussion by a lake. It’s not a clunky exchange where the characters express themselves because the writer is forcing them to; it’s a genuine exchange between a couple. It’s a great scene across the board – well shot, written and acted – that shows the range and promise that Peele has as a storyteller.