Movie Review: Get Out
By Ben Gruchow
February 27, 2017
Get Out is a film that subtly manages audience expectations, tossing off veiled cues to movies with similar-sounding hooks, while quietly building its own structure and identity. It masterfully draws out its implications, and by the time it rounds its final turn and lets that tension go in a single sustained passage of revelation and violence, we’re nothing but captives. It's the best film of its type since It Follows.
Most of what I’ve described above involves the technical aspects of the film, which are mechanically very close to flawless. We would still land quite clear over the line of recommendation if we were constrained to a product that got the notes this right without caring much about the music, albeit one that didn’t last in our memories much beyond the end credits. The racial component of the film, manifested (as we see from the trailers) as the black protagonist meeting his white girlfriend’s family for the first time in their rural, wooded town, and coming around to a realization that something is off with his new “family,” singlehandedly elevates the discourse the movie is capable of. It’s entirely fair, I think, to say that if you removed race from Get Out, you would have a proficient movie forgotten in a year’s time; it’s also fair to say that race is baked so endemically into this story as a critical component that it’s quite pointless to entertain the concept more than I already have.
What the filmmakers and studio have also done here is construct and present the movie right on the line between horror and comedy. This obviously allows a layer of remove from the material, along the lines of something like Cabin in the Woods, and here the advantage it gives to visceral effectiveness far outstrips that film; the horrific elements of the story, as they peek through with increasing frequency toward the end, come across consistently sharper because they’re set against the backdrop of what is intended to be and successfully articulates nervous levity.
The movie’s setup is simplicity itself; I have buried the lede long enough in trying to avoid talking about it, because (again, like Cabin in the Woods) there is a low ceiling in what we can discuss without venturing into spoilers, and I am committed to following the example of the marketing materials. We are introduced to Chris, played by newcomer Daniel Kaluuya, as he prepares to take a road trip with his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams); their destination is her family’s wooded estate, visiting neurosurgeon Dean (Bradley Whitford) and therapist Missy (Catherine Keener). Their visit coincides with a large family gathering, which would make any outsider nervous; making Chris more nervous is that Rose hasn’t yet told her family that he’s black. This is not interpretation; it’s the question explicitly from Chris as they prepare to leave.
This sets us up to go down a thought path that Get Out is all too happy to let us wander: since most of what we see is from Chris’ perspective, and since the movie makes it clear that racial tension and overtones are very much on his mind as a daily occurrence, how much of the events that transpire are filtered through his perception? This is an instantly sensitive subject to dramatize, and the movie’s touch with it is light, delicate, and deliberate. Part of this is because of the pacing and timing of these kind of interactions, but most of it is down to Kaluuya’s expressiveness and reactions, which are startling in their ability to convey a natural charisma and a natural distrust. (this is a dialogue-light, but star-making performance).