The catalyst for the clever, suspenseful, and unsettling film “Get Out,” begins with an ordinary situation that doesn’t take long to escalate into something ominous. The camera focuses in on a man who is talking on his cell phone about being lost in a suburban neighborhood, where the names of the streets all have a similar sound to them. While on his cell, a car passes him, but immediately turns around and begins to follow him from a distance. There is no one else driving or walking on the quiet street, so he begins to get suspicious. Turning around, the man observes that the car has stopped, and the front door is open. Before he has time for much of a reaction, he is abducted; leaving a viewer to wonder – Why? It is a question, the answer to which will not be learned until much later in the film.
The next scene transitions to the introduction to the film’s main protagonist, Chris Washington, a professional photographer, who is effectively portrayed by Daniel Kaluuya (Sicario). Chris is scanning through photos he has taken, before he begins to shave, while waiting for the arrival of his girlfriend, Rose Armitage, very well played, in a nuanced manner by Allison Williams (Girls), in her first feature film. She is out buying donuts and pastries for a weekend trip she and Chris will soon be leaving on. The couple have been dating for approximately five months, but the excursion out of the city, and into the country, is not a romantic getaway. In fact, already feeling apprehensive about going, Chris becomes more so, when he learns that Rose has not told her parents, who he will be meeting for the first time, that he is an African-American. Statements from Rose, such as that her parents aren’t the least bit racist, and that her father would have gladly cast his vote to keep President Obama in charge for a third term, help just a little toward quelling Chris’s anxiety. Conversely, thanks to both apathy and tragedy, Rose will never have to be on her best behavior when meeting Chris’s parents. He had an absentee father, and when he was eleven, his mother died from injuries she sustained during a hit and run. Against the advice of his best friend, TSA agent, Rod Williams (Lil Rel Howery), whose character provides comic relief throughout the film’s 104 minute runtime, Chris decides to throw caution to the wind, and takes the trip with Rose.
When the couple arrives at the Armitage house, there is nothing outwardly sinister or untoward taking place. A short time after they get there, however, a viewer should get the sense that, leaving aside surface pleasantries, there is something disconcerting about the Armitage family. Rose’s father, Dean, a role acted by two time Emmy winner Bradley Whitford, is a neurosurgeon. Her mother, Missy, played by two time Oscar nominee Catherine Keener (Capote), is a hypnotherapist who is keenly interested in getting a chance to put Chris under hypnosis, in order to help him beat his addiction to nicotine; something which Chris is not interested in doing. Furthermore, Chris gets the sense that there is something not quite right with two African American staff members at the Armitage home. Their dispositions, mannerisms, and the way the groundskeeper, Walter (Marcus Henderson), and the housekeeper, Georgina (Betty Gabriel), converse, comes across as a bit unnatural. Chris, realizing that perhaps it is own preconceptions of what he was expecting before his arrival at Rose’s parents house, attempts to dismiss the behavior of the two staff members with plausible excuses. Additionally, the strange behavior by Rose’s brother, Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones), who says inappropriate things, and at one point during dinner attempts to put Chris in a headlock, after a discussion about Jujutsu, at least at first, defies explanation, other than that he is a jerk.
Chris and Rose’s visit to her parent’s home is poorly timed. Their arrival that weekend coincides with the Armitage’s annual party. Rose, who is seemingly dumbfounded by the news, is reminded by her parents that the party takes place on the same day every year. If Chris didn’t already feel out of place, the steady arrival of mostly white, senior-citizens, with the exception of one older Asian gentlemen, does nothing to help reduce the tension he feels. The guests at the party have no qualms about making comments about how they feel, that since Chris was born an African American man, that he is by nature genetically superior. Amongst other comments made with a complete lack of tact: a woman places her hands on Chris to get a sense of his muscle definition; and the Asian man goes as far as to ask Chris, in front of a group of people, if there are more advantages or disadvantages to being an African American in this world? The only friendly face, or one that Chris perceives to be a friendly face, is that of another black man, Andrew Logan King played by Lakeith Stanfield (Short Term 12). When Chris approaches him, however, he too, acts like Walter and Georgina. He is there in a physical sense, and can reply when spoken to; but coupled with the fact that he is at the party with his date, an unattractive Caucasian woman nearly twice his age, something seems terribly wrong to Chris, not to mention the fact that Chris feels he has met Andrew before, however, he can’t remember where.
After the party guests have had an opportunity to meet and talk with Chris, a silent auction takes place. The winner of the auction, as you might have guessed wins, none other than Chris, but for what purpose? Are the members of the party descendants of slave owners, who wants to keep the vile practice going in modern day America? Is there a sexual component to their wickedness? Will Chris’s body be auctioned off to the highest bidder, so that person can engage in whatever depraved proclivities their mind can think up? Are they assembled organ harvesters, who are looking for prime, young body parts to sell on the black market? Will Chris learn in time what is happening, and be able to get away? Will Allison help Chris escape, or is she complicit in the reprehensible situation taking place? For those of you who haven’t seen the film, I don’t want to ruin the twists and turns that transpire in the third act of the film. Nor, for that matter, did I want to write about a key scene involving Chris and Rose’s mother, Missy, because I felt that could also possibly diminish you deriving the maximum amount of thrills from the movie as it progresses toward its conclusion.
“Get Out” is the feature film directorial debut for Emmy winner, Jordan Peele (Key and Peele). In addition, Peele wrote the screen play for the movie which is parts horror and mystery. The film premiered on January 23, 2017 at the Sundance Film Festival, and has been the recipient of laudable critical praise and box office success. Made for an estimated budget of $5,000,000 dollars, the film’s opening weekend take was close to $34,000,000, and, as of the writing of this post, the film has since gone on to surpass the $130,000,000 box-office mark. A well rounded cast, timely jump scares, spot on cinematography by Toby Oliver (Miracles), which captures the underlying dread permeating the seemingly calm environment during the first half of the movie, and an effective score composed by Michael Abels, helps to make Peele’s first foray into directing a successful one. I’m interested in seeing what he will come up with next.