Get Out opens with a black man (Atlanta’s Keith Stanfield) getting abducted in a white suburban neighbourhood. The following scene features Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), also black, asking his white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) whether her parents know he is black. She mocks his insecurity: “Mom and dad, my black boyfriend will be coming up this weekend. I just don’t want you to be shocked that he’s a blackman.” In these scenes, Get Out sets up the awkward balance of race relations in America as its subject, while silently sharpening its satirical scalpel.
Chris reluctantly agrees to visit his girlfriend’s “bougie” family at their isolated country mansion, staffed by a black gardener and maid, and host to pretentious parties ripe for ridicule. Although his friend is paranoid and sceptical about the affair, Chris displays a remarkable capacity for tolerance, from an encounter with a subtly bigoted cop, to hanging out with the obnoxious, virtue-signalling father, played by Bradley Whitford in a marvelously detestable turn.
Chris affably shrugs off the increasingly inappropriate and unpleasant behaviour of the suburban whites he is forced to interact with, making it clear that this is something he has grown very used to. As he ignores or fails to notice the increasingly sinister signs that haunt the area, his fatal flaw proves to be his cautious trust of white society. By the time he raises his guard, it’s far too late.
Get Out is a hilarious send-up of polite racism in American society. This is to be expected from writer/director Jordan Peele, half of sketch comedy group Key and Peele. Peele surprises by matching this comedic edge with a strong horror sensibility that is tense, unnerving, and at times unapologetically gruesome. The film seamlessly shifts between these two modes and the tone is kept in check by regular lighthearted gags (Chris extends a fist-bump to one of the only black people in this neighbourhood, who awkwardly clasps and shakes it). Still, a sense of palpable dread builds as he is slowly coaxed deeper into the WASP factory.
Sharply edited and held together by a subtle, riveting performance by Kaluuya, Get Out manages to startle, entertain, and convey a militant message about race in America in one concise package. It is a potent parable for our times, and indicates that Jordan Peele is one to watch out for.
On general release March 17th.