I recently saw the film Get Out, written and directed by Jordan Peele and starring Daniel Kaluuya and was blown away. I have a feeling that this post won’t be able to encompass all the things I want to say about Get Out but I’ll definitely try.
Get Out is about Chris, a young black photographer, who is meeting his white girlfriend’s family for the first time at their secluded home. The introductions are awkward but as Chris’s stay extends, his encounters with the other few black people in the Armitage’s home and town become increasingly bizarre and give way to a much more sinister scheme – the Armitage’s are hypnotizing black people, auctioning off their bodies, removing their brains, and putting those of white people into them. There is a glimmer of consciousness but in essence, they are white people in slimmer, fitter, more artistic, more fashionable bodies, or so they see it.
When taken at face value, Get Out is a typical horror-satire about a group of people in a small town who seem normal but are in reality murderous psychopaths. This is not a new notion in film (see The Strangers, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, You’re Next, lets even throw in Stepford Wives for good measure) however Get Out is so much more than that. If you take a deeper look, it covers a vast array of racial fears, prejudice or a perceived lack-there-of, the disconnect between the emotional and physical associations of race, conspiracy, medical ethics, artistic ethics, and the list goes on and on. I’m not going to try and cover all of these topics (I’ll save that for my future thesis LOL) but I will talk about one that resonated with me more than anything – behavior rationalization.
The part of this film that has stuck with me, that made me want to write about it from the moment the credits rolled is the ability of man to be so incredibly terrible to each other. It seems so simplistic when said like that, but it’s true. I am an avid horror fan and the films that terrify me the most are the ones in which human beings do believable and terrible things to one another. Ghosts and creepy children crawling out of the TV are certainly things of nightmares, but people torturing each other is taking place with uncomfortable regularity.
The last film to really invoke these feelings in me was Pascal Laugier’s 2008 film Martyrs. Starting off like a traditional ghostly horror, a woman is held captive and haunted by a creature in her delirious state. Her torture is amplified by a group of people with grandiose ideas about humanity, sacrifice, and martyrdom. It is one of the most sickening things I’ve seen on film; it is both physically and mentally abhorrent. But – it was beautiful, heart-wrenching, and so thought-provoking I’m still thinking about it 7 years later.
This feeling, in a nut-shell, was how I felt after watching Get Out. The major difference between the motives in these two films is that in Martyrs the people who are practicing the torture believe it is a ritual human sacrifice for the greater good; the people in Get Out are torturing and dehumanizing others for the sake of their own vain benefit. Personally, I find the latter to be much more disturbing.
Jordan Peele expertly divulges into the psyche of people who separate the means with the end no matter how horrific or terrible it is. His characters rationalize their horrific actions by saying things like “If I could, I would have voted for Obama for a third term” or “Black is in fashion now,.” It’s as if saying these ridiculous things makes them not racist, post-racial, or whatever other bogus thing people say to feel better about their prejudice. These comments illuminate the mindset of the white people in the town – the black people they encounter are few and far between and are seen only as their individual attributes, not as a collective culture including their experiences and struggles that go along with being black. It’s obscenely reductive at worst and oversimplified at best.
There is so much more that can be said about this film in terms of content but I will end my review on a more technical note. The cinematography in Get Out is absolutely stunning. The way the shots are framed and the overall feel of the scene is beautiful if not for it’s questionable content. The acting is spot on in every scene; the story is well flushed out and each and every one of the characters are believable. The writing for this film is impeccable and the soundtrack/score is SO INCREDIBLE.
If you haven’t seen Get Out cancel your weekend plans, or afternoon plans, or any plans because it’s only 104 minutes long, and watch it. If you take nothing else out of it, I hope you come away a little more thoughtful in your day to day interactions with people who might look a little different than you. It is an incredibly powerful film and so far, my favorite film of 2017 (and I’ve seen Logan AND Wonder Woman).
For further reading, check out these fantastic articles:
In Get Out, the Eyes Have It. Lenika Cruz, the Atlantic.
Get Out Understands the Black Body. Ira Madison III, MTV News.
“Get Out”: Jordan Peele’s Radical Cinematic Vision of the World Through a Black Man’s Eyes. Richard Brody, The New Yorker.
And if you’re really feeling the dismal outlook of current race relations, watch the alternate ending here.