Thursday, February 23, 2017

'Get Out' review

At this point, I'm convinced that Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele can do pretty much anything. They kick-started their career with their self-titled sketch show, Key & Peele, which became a smash hit and a hallmark of the Obama age. Smartly deconstructing race in America, Key & Peele was a viral sensation that announced the birth of two brilliant comedic voices. After making their big-screen debut in 2016 with the similarly themed Keanu, Key and Peele have started to pursue their own unique projects, which will hopefully bring them to new audiences around the globe. Key had a role in the indie hit Don't Think Twice, and he'll also star in the upcoming Predator reboot. I'm sure he's under consideration for plenty of other big movie roles, and it won't be long before he gets a chance to star in a massive hit. Meanwhile, Peele has taken a different path, moving into the game of writing and directing original horror. Get Out is his feature debut, a low-budget team-up with Jason Blum, the king of modern Hollywood horror. And if it's any indication, Peele is headed for a long and successful career as one of the industry's most innovative filmmakers.

I hadn't heard anything about Get Out until I saw the first trailer, which was truly a revelation. In a divided America, Peele's stinging, horror-centric satire looked like just the kind of film we needed. After the Sundance sneak preview, the floodgates opened and the critical community acclaimed Get Out as the new horror sensation. And for the most part, Peele's directorial debut delivers on the hype- this is a scary, darkly hilarious film, one that goes into some truly astonishing territory. It's sharp and clever, but also deeply crowd-pleasing in a big way (this movie has some moments that absolutely destroyed my audience). Even if Get Out showcases some obvious debut feature flaws, the ambition and hypnotic vision on display make up for the negatives. Led by the terrific Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out is both raucous and vicious, hysterical and bloody as all hell. It adds up to create a deeply satisfying experience, a thought-provoking film devoted to putting a new spin on the horror genre.

Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose (Allison Williams) are your average couple. They've been dating for a while, and he's ready to meet her parents. Only there's a small snag in the equation- he's black and she's white. And even in a modern relationship with fairly liberal parents, that makes Chris a little nervous. Rose assures him that he has nothing to worry about, but he isn't entirely convinced. They make the trek up to the posh suburb, and Chris is introduced to Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy (Catherine Keener), Rose's warm, welcoming parents. But even though they seem like they're fairly nice, there's something off about the whole Armitage family. For starters, two black servants- Walter (Marcus Henderson) and Georgina (Betty Gabriel)- work on their mansion, doing manual labor and always working with a creepy smile on their face. Second, there's the matter of Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones), Rose's gregarious brother who immediately puts Chris on edge.

Oh, and Missy also hypnotizes him. That's a thing that happens. As the bizarre incidents start piling up, Chris begins to get more and more afraid. Rose assures him that everything is alright, but that's not quite the case. Georgina and Walter act increasingly strange, and when he meets another fellow African-American (Lakeith Stanfield) at the Armitage's yearly shindig (which just so happens to be occurring on the weekend that Chris and Rose are visiting), Chris goes into full-blown panic mode. Weird dreams, strange locals, subtle racism at every turn- yeah, it's time to get the hell out of this suburb. But with danger and mystery around every corner, it's hard to know who to trust. As Chris finds himself in a terrifying scenario, he'll need to use everything at his disposal to survive.

Get Out is a movie that should be experienced with as little prior knowledge as possible. In retrospect, I wish that I hadn't read any of the buzz or seen any of the trailers. Because once you have a general idea of where this is going, there's very little in the way of twists or surprises. Sure, Peele maintains his commitment to taking the audience on an wild thrill ride, and you'll probably be shocked by just how brutal and nasty this thing gets in the third act. But if I'm being honest, I envy the audience member who sees the film without knowing a single thing about it, who simply sits down and gets taken aback by a complex, wholly unique creation. I know that small-budget releases have to spoil some things to gain points on the hype machine, but I must say that I truly regret catching some of the marketing for Get Out.

That being said, it doesn't really diminish the excellent work that Jordan Peele has done with his debut feature, which is as ambitious as it is entertaining. Anyone familiar with Peele's comedic work won't be surprised that he's exploring themes of modern racism in America with his first film, but even the most devoted viewers of Key & Peele will likely be impressed by just how far he takes this idea. Make no mistake about it- Get Out completely goes for broke, working as one of the most essential and outrageous studio horror films of the decade. Most directors have difficulty pulling off one tone or genre, but through his unique blend of bloody horror and satirical comedy, Peele's debut demonstrates an incredible mastery of craft. Throw in the fact that he's working with complex themes that most filmmakers and studios wouldn't touch, and his achievement is even more remarkable. Making a small-budget horror film as a debut doesn't seem all that difficult, but when it's as smart and intricate as Get Out, it's nothing short of a minor miracle.

As the hype builds for Get Out in the coming weeks, most people will likely describe Peele's film as a horror classic, something that goes into truly scary and horrifying territory. In reality, this film is a comedy first and a thriller second, which shouldn't be a surprise given Peele's comedic background. However, this isn't a comedy in the traditional sense of the word- it's an incredibly smart, sophisticated piece of suburban satire. Get Out isn't about the kind of obvious racism that we still see in America today. As Peele and many of the other cast members have noted, it's the kind of "friendly" racism that lurks around every corner. It pervades through suburbs and fancy neighborhoods, and many people don't even recognize it. I can't get into all of Get Out's ideas without spoiling the fun, but Peele's comprehensive understanding of these ideas contributes to some of the most wickedly hysterical satire I've seen in recent memory. Don't get me wrong- the undercurrent of privileged liberal racism is genuinely terrifying, as evidenced by some of this film's most vicious sequences. But through both careful hyperbole and a stellar exploitation of social dynamics, Peele creates some dynamite moments of comedic bliss. Imagine Hot Fuzz with more scares and more racist white people, and you'll get something that looks like Get Out.

Peele also happens to have a cast that knows exactly what he's going for, and to see a filmmaker and his crew working in such perfect harmony is truly a sight to behold. Daniel Kaluuya was incredibly impressive in 2015's Sicario, and with his performance as Chris, he proves that he's the real deal. Kaluuya raises our guard before giving the audience the catharsis it so desperately craves, as he takes his character on a bonkers and fully satisfying ride of violence in the final moments. Allison Williams is also truly sensational as Rose, pulling off a sweet and tender character who creates a real emotional connection with our lead. Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener, and Caleb Landry Jones all hit the perfect notes as the Armitage family, striking the right mix of friendly, creepy, and unassumingly racist. And finally, what can I say about Lil Rel Howery that hasn't been said already? He simply steals the show as Rod Williams, Chris' best friend responsible for kicking off the investigation into the Armitage suburb. He gets the biggest laughs, and if someone can provide him with the right comedic vehicle, he'll be a star.

Even with all of this praise that I'm giving to Peele's debut, I'm in the weird position of not being quite as enamored with a breakout horror film as everyone else. This is an absolutely fantastic film, but is it a full-blown masterpiece? No, not quite. If anything, the hype will be what kills this movie with some audience members- after all, 100% on Rotten Tomatoes is a lot to live up to by any reasonable standards. Get Out suffers from some pacing issues and a little bit of narrative choppiness, which sometimes threw me off. When Peele is on, this things fires on all cylinders. But for all of its raucous bloodshed and clever humor, there still manage to be a few moments that drag, taking the audience out of the movie for a brief second.

Thankfully, those scenes are few and far between, as Peele delivers a full-fledged satire that is as biting and acidic as it is frightening. You've never seen a mainstream horror comedy as bold and daring as this, and unless Peele makes another film, I'm not sure that we'll see one quite as unique for a very long time. Get Out is a movie made for the times that we live in today, and its relevance will only shine brighter as the days go on. It's a provocative film in pretty much every way, and it's a giant slap in the face for everyone who says that racism is dead in this country. It's a brilliant, bloodthirsty piece of filmmaking, and it's one hell of a debut for one of the most talented comedic geniuses of this generation.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B+                                            (7.8/10)

Image Credits: IMDB

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