When one reads a lot about movies, it’s sometimes difficult to separate a reaction to a movie from a reaction to the hype (or hate) it gets from the masses. It’s the duty of an intellectually honest reviewer to critique the movie itself, not the echo chamber that surrounds the movie.
But I cannot lie and say that the massive hype around Get Out and the well-trod discussion of its horror treatment of racism likely had a strong impact on my perception of the film. Had I come in blind, I think I would have been a lot more enthusiastic. That’s because Get Out is really only clever to the point of building out the concept of a horror set-up that reflects the idea of being a Black person in neo-liberal America as a scary and dehumanizing experience.
To be clear, successfully rendering this concept is not a small achievement at all. Director and writer Jordan Peele does a terrific job in the first half of the movie of amping up the discomfort of Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) as he encounters the “super-white” Armitage family; their awkward white liberal sensibilities grow increasingly toxic, as does the fact that their “hired help” of all Black people seem increasing inhuman and detached.
(If I put on my cynical hat for a moment… I wonder if the exceedingly white group of critics that poured praise on the film did so in part because they felt “seen” and wanted to make sure the world knew that they “got it” and weren’t part of the problem the film was diagnosing. I know I certainly had a little bit of a knee-jerk reaction myself, and that’s one way you can tell that the concept is brilliantly immersive and executed.)
Where the movie loses some of its steam is in the film’s second half. Once it’s clear that the movie is building towards the idea of an Armitage body-control conspiracy, the rest of the movie simply lets the dominoes fall without many surprises, though still plenty of tension. Some of the blasts of violence are creative and memorable; others are pretty generic.
My least favorite of the film’s bits is the thread with Rod (Lil Rel Howery). His role as the comic relief buddy and, in particular, the gags about his job as a TSA agent, feel like sketch comedy and out of place with the rest of the film.
Thankfully, the film looks terrific and is well-acted all around. Kaluuya leaves an immediate impression as a lead able to handle all of the tones of a movie like this — comedy, horror, romantic chemistry, etc. Bradley Whitford and Allison Williams are terrific in their respective roles as sweetly condescending patriarch and duplicitous girlfriend.
I enjoyed Get Out, but I’m particularly excited about the promise that Peele demonstrates as a creative storyteller and nuts-and-bolts horror director.