GET OUT (8.5 out of 10) Written and Directed by Jordan Peele; Starring Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener, Caleb Landry Jones, Marcus Henderson, Betty Gabriel, Lakeith Stanfield, Stephen Root, LilRel Howery; Rated R for violence, bloody images, and language including sexual references; Running time 104 minutes; In wide release February 24, 2017.
While the term "woke" is perhaps becoming a little trite or cliche in describing socially conscious media, there is simply ne better descriptor for comedy master Jordan Peele's directorial debut. If Hitchcock, The Twilight Zone, and Ta-Nehesi Coates teamed up to write a story about an interracial couple going to meet her very white, very economically and socially privileged family, this is what you'd get. But the best part of the film is how layered and subtle it is, making it enjoyable on multiple levels.
The first surface level is simply as a horror thriller. When Chris (Daniel Kaluuya, who you may recognize from that episode of Black Mirror "Fifteen Million Merits" -- the one with the exercise bikes and reality tv show) goes away for the weekend with his girlfriend Rose to meet her parents, he finds out their nearly all-white neighborhood is hiding all sorts of creepy secrets.
Everyone seems nice enough, but things are just weird. Like the only black people in the community are a) strangely compliant and b) mostly servants. Chris remarks it's like "the movement never happened here." And when one of the black residents breaks from their polished demeanor and warns Chris to "Get out!!" we start to see just how deep this rabbit hole goes. And then in classic horror fashion, Chris must escape from this nightmare.
The second level -- as brilliant social commentary -- is masterful for those willing to hear the message. Chris encounters every single type of racism--casual and overt, insipid and insidious-- and Peele masterfully shows both the roots and reductio ad absurdum ends of that kind of thinking. They even explore less obvious forms of racism, such as the objectification of black bodies for manual labor, athleticism for entertainment, sexual gratification, and even the appropriation of black art for white audiences. And in this is the true horror of the story.
Peele also provides a brilliant bit of both comic relief and metacontextual commentary by giving Chris a best friend named Rod (Lil Rey Howery) who mostly just interacts with us on the phone and text message. He's a loudmouth in the same vein as Grandpa from The Boondocks or Luther, Obama's Anger Translator from Key and Peele and he gives voice to what we would expect people to yell at the screen: "I told you not to trust them white people! Don't go in that house!!" and so on. It's a brilliant touch that helps both ease the tension and also provide an extra layer of commentary to the film.
It would be easy to dismiss this as just a horror film, the same way you might the original Night of the Living Dead, but just as that film had a powerful racial message, so too does Get Out. And Jordan Peele cements himself as much the visionary as George Romero and all the other masters who have used science fiction, horror, and other genre films to say something important about the times they live in.
8.5 out of 10