Let’s just imagine the circumstances when writer-director Jordan Peele made the pitch to make the film “Get Out.” He might have started by explaining the film’s premise. “It’s about a family of crazy white people who kidnap black people, hypnotize them, transplant part of their brains, and turn them into slaves for other white people who purchase them at auction.” Got that?
What could have gone terribly wrong turns out to be a fascinating horror-thriller. This is one of those times when a filmmaker uses the power of art to make a sophisticated social statement about racism.
The premise affords Peele the opportunity to underscore a wide variety of racial injustices. He examines racial prejudice of all kinds. He comments on social privilege and power. He investigates stereotypes and their capacity to shape reality. The film’s interior messages are heavy, but they’re so carefully crafted they never distract from the action and suspense.
“Get Out” isn’t parody or satire. It relies on nuance and subtle details as the story unfolds. Of course, Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) is nervous when his girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) invites him to meet her parents. Since Chris is black and Rose is white, Chris has concerns until Rose assures him that her parents aren’t racists.
That fact appears fully confirmed when they arrive at Rose’s family estate. Rose’s father Dean (Bradley Whitford) launches forth on his love for Obama, proclaiming that he would have voted for him a third time had he been given the chance.
Her mother Missy (Catherine Keener) offers to work her magic and hypnotize Chris to help him quit smoking.
Everything appears friendly and relaxed at first, but then Chris picks up a strange vibe. It will soon reverberate to a deafening roar. The escalating tension becomes palpable shortly after guests begin arriving for an annual party, one whose roots go back a generation to Rose’s grandfather.
Chris has one good friend at home who’s worried about him. Rod Williams (LilRel Howery) can’t reach Chris on the phone, so he springs into detective mode. As an employee of TSA, Williams knows a thing or two. He goes to the police, attesting that he’s been trained to search for terrorists, and now he smells a rat.
“Get Out” pokes at something ugly just beneath the surface of American society, and sometimes, a little poking is exactly what needs to happen.
Rated R for violence, bloody images, and language including sexual references
Marilyn Robitaille has been writing film reviews for the Stephenville Empire Tribune since 1999.