This can’t really be a long review: all the good things have already been said about Jordan Peele’s debut movie Get Out, and I agree with them. As I watched, I sank further and further in my seat, driven behind the collar of my jumper by the cringeworthy, racist response of Rose’s family and friends to her boyfriend, Chris, and then furthermore by the film’s descent into pure horror.
It’s a gorgeous movie: everything about it is beautifully framed and lit and soundtracked. Every detail is there for a reason, from the recurring image of the hunted deer (overrunning the place!) to the replica medieval helmet in the car of a violent young white man. The appropriation of medieval stories, and the misrepresentation of medieval cultures and values by white supremacists is an old tale, and one that medievalists are still learning to push back against, so it was with a particular shudder that I noted the helmet in that car.
The film is precise in all its execution: you won’t forget a single line it wants to you remember (“he almost got over it”), and I’m convinced that re-watching will only add to the experience. On a first viewing it holds its cards tight to its chest, forcing you to pay attention to these details; the mundane is made strange, and microaggressions visibly add up, but it’s hard to be certain where precisely the narrative is leading you. My working guess as I watched proved to be inaccurate: the story is stranger and more sinister than I first assumed, and even as it drew to its final scene, a happy ending remained uncertain. (1 – spoilers)
As Chris, Daniel Kaluuya is as impressive as I’ve come to expect. He quietly stole the show in Sicario, and his performance in ‘Fifteen Million Merits’ (S1 E2 of Black Mirror) has haunted me since I saw it. (2) No matter what the setting is, Kaluuya will drag you in and make you see it from his perspective, bringing humanity to awful situations along with a sharp, incisive awareness. The audience views Get Out through Chris’s eyes, and it’s unceasingly powerful, viciously conscious of this fact right down to his fight to escape the horror he’s been subjected to. I’ve been meaning to read Carol Clover‘s work on the trope of the ‘final girl’ for some time; now, I wonder how Chris’ survival will compare with her findings.
Apparently Jordan Peele is planning more movies in this vein. I can’t wait.
(1) SPOILERS I really had to rationalise why it would be okay, even with Rod turning up. Would it really be fine, would Chris be believed? Yes, I had to believe there would be DNA evidence in Walter’s body and in Georgina’s, that the forensics at the house would still reveal enough about the Armitage’s appalling practices. It was all okay for Chris in the end, wasn’t it? Please?
(2) I did watch S1 E3, but don’t remember much of it. ‘Fifteen Million Merits’ is still the most effective horror story I’ve ever seen, and I don’t need to see another episode of Black Mirror because that one was disturbing enough for a lifetime’s worth of fretting about the State of Things.