If nothing else, 2017 is already making its mark as the year of the twisted thriller, with filmmakers using the genre to explore real world concerns that often go unspoken.
As someone who has regularly teamed with comedy partner Keegan Michael-Key to explore politics and race relations for laughs, Jordan Peele takes a different approach in Get Out, making a bonafide thriller in the process. The end result is a sleek exercise in suspense that constantly keeps one on their toes so as to not miss an important clue about where things might be going.
Chris and Rose (Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams) are ready to take their relationship to the next level when she brings him to meet her parents. Well, except for the fact that she has yet to tell them that Chris is African American, not that she thinks that might be an issue as they drive out to her parents’ countryside home in the middle of nowhere.
Rose’s mom (Catherine Keener) is a psychologist who uses hypnosis to help cure patients of their addictions, while her father (Bradley Whitford) is a neurosurgeon. They’re both more than welcoming of Chris, but the couple have arrived on the weekend when Rose’s family has an annual gathering of friends. Chris is already getting strange vibes from the family’s black help, but he gets more suspicious as he encounters the family’s guests, especially the only other black man among them (Lakeith Stanfield).
Peele takes the concept behind Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? to its furthest, most genre extreme. The fact Rose’s parents act so friendly towards Chris doesn’t make their intentions any less dubious, as you know there’s something behind all the smiling faces around them.
Peele leans far more toward an old school Hitchcock approach, utilizing a slow build and music clearly inspired by Bernard Herrmann to escalate tension. Kaluuya does a fine job as an ersatz Jimmy Stewart replacement, pulling the viewers into the mystery with him. The actors around him, especially Williams, also do excellent work of making the viewer feel just as uneasy as Chris does about everyone who is so unnaturally friendly when meeting him. It’s obvious that Peele’s casting choices accomplish so much at bringing out the strengths in a script that might have felt somewhat one-note or even Twilight Zone-ish otherwise.
The humor that some might be expecting in a movie directed by Peele mostly shows up in the guise of Chris’ best friend Rod (comedian “LilRel” Howery), a boisterous TSA worker who has been suspicious of Rose and her family all along. In the last act, he adds some much needed levity as things go sideways.
To say more will surely diminish the surprises that pop up as we watch Chris being led further into the web of intrigue behind what Rose’s family and their friends are really up to.
Get Out’s biggest hurdle comes from how long the movie takes to get to its turn, as Chris deals with strange circumstances that don’t necessarily add up to the eventual reveal. Just as you think you’ve figured out where things are going, the story takes a far darker and more malevolent twist, leading to a crazy and bloody final act that really pays off.
Get Out is an impressive debut from Peele, a well-crafted thriller that offers insightful and thought-provoking commentary on modern society in a way that’s also entertaining as hell.
Get Out opens nationwide on Friday, Feb. 24.