Saturday, 6 May 2017

Get Out (includes audio review)

(MA15+) ★★★★★

Director: Jordan Peele.

Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Lil Rel Howery, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Stephen Root, Betty Gabriel, Marcus Henderson.

"Has anyone seen Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?"
"Oh yeah, I love Ashton Kutcher!"

THE best horror and sci-fi stories reflect the fears and concerns of the time. 

Godzilla is the manifestation of Japan's post-Hiroshima nuclear nightmares. Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers hinted at the threat of Commies and the equally heinous McCarthyism. Dawn Of The Dead tackled consumerism. Frankenstein and Jekyll & Hyde first emerged as cautionary tales about unchecked science. The best of the early slasher films mirrored concerns about teen sex, stranger danger and the media-driven fascination with serial killers. The emergence of body horror films coincided with the rise of cosmetic surgery.

And so on and so forth. People write PhDs on this stuff. 

Its when genre pieces like these explore such social issues that they typically take on an extra level that can catapult them above the morass of more mindless examples. In other words, it's this deeper thematic layer that helps make them classics.

Get Out fits in that category. It is reflective of the racial tensions that have bubbled and burst in the US in recent years and is effortlessly demonstrative of white privilege and the accompanying ingrained impact that it has on black Americans. And simmering along underneath, beside and inside all these concerns is a wonderfully silly little horror plot, delivered with a straight face that amplifies the film's moral worries. 

The hero of Get Out is Chris (Kaluuya), a photographer who is on his way to meet the family of his girlfriend Rose (Williams) for the first time. Chris is nervous about spending the weekend with them because Rose is white and she hasn't told her family that Chris is black. As the weekend progresses, Chris begins to feel odd about Rose's family and friends, but he can't quite tell if he's just being paranoid or if something truly weird is going on.

The performances across the board are superb. Kaluuya carries the film comfortably and does an amazing job, ably supported by Williams, while the side players of Keener, Whitford and Root are excellent. Gabriel, Henderson and LaKeith Stanfield excel in small but pivotal roles that go along toward giving Get Out its creepy air.

Given that writer/director Peele is better known as one half of comedy duo Key & Peele, it's no surprise there is some humour here, but it's cleverly sectioned off into the moments involving Lil Rel Howery's TSA agent Rod - a friend of Chris who keeps tabs on Chris' weekend over the phone. 

The greatest strength of Get Out is its script, and not just because of its thematic depth. There's not a wasted line or moment - everything is there for a reason, and as you mentally unpick the film after watching it, it becomes increasingly impressive. The subtle set-ups, the slightly off tones, and the seemingly throwaway lines all pay off and serve a purpose, often in wonderful ways.

Peele nails the subtlety, awkwardness, blatantness, and ridiculousness of racism. The film's exploration of it is never awkward or blatant though. It simply has a black lead character and looks at how white people would honestly deal with him ... and then things get weird and everything is dialed up a notch as the horror plotting takes hold. But it's still in the small things, particularly the final pivotal moment, where you get a powerful display of racism at work.

Peele also handles the horror well. There's nothing overtly gory, and while it is violent, it's not gratuitous. The film's appeal is in the slow unwind of its creepy tone and its psychological edge. Peele lets the script's evils creep up on you. He's not adverse to a jump scare, but its the overall tone and ideas of Get Out that really get at you.

Predicting what films will be future classics is one of the more impossible tasks of the movie critic. It's what five-star reviews should be saved for - the films that are not only great now, but likely to be considered great for decades to come. Get Out is definitely great now, and I'm taking a punt that it will be considered great for decades to come.

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