If you're going to be jealous of somebody's talent in Hollywood, Jordan Peele is an excellent place to start. This is a man who was not content enough spending years establishing himself as one of the funniest human beings on the planet, and announced to the world that what he really wanted to do was direct horror movies. It was a surprising development, but one obviously destined to produce fascinating results. And it absolutely has. Peele has made his directorial debut with the new suburban scare-fest Get Out, and even at a time when we are regularly seeing fantastic horror hitting the big screen, it still remains a standout piece of shocking and entertaining art.
The great genre filmmakers recognize that horror's just a device for commentary, and while Get Out may look like everything is just painted on the surface, it's an impressively rich and powerful execution of a smart, scare-packed premise. It certainly takes cues from cinematic history, and could be elevator pitched as "The Stepford Wives meets Guess Who's Coming To Dinner," but with a playful sense of tone, amazing performances, and a sharp bite, it resonates with you long after you've left the theater.
Also the first film where Jordan Peele has taken a sole screenwriter credit, the story picks up following Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), a young black photographer who is ready to take a big step in his relationship with his white girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams): meeting her parents for the first time. They drive out to the family's impressive estate, and the initial reception is incredibly if not awkwardly warm, as both surgeon dad Dean (Bradley Whitford) and hypnotherapist mom Missy (Catherine Keener) do everything they can to make Chris feel welcome. As Dean eagerly declares, he would have voted for President Obama to get a third term.
As the long weekend continues, however, and the family plans a massive annual get-together, Chris begins to notice that things aren't quite normal. The only black people around are the groundskeeper, Walter (Marcus Henderson), and the housekeeper, Georgina (Betty Gabriel), who never act quite normal. And then there's Missy's insistence on helping Chris get rid of his bad smoking habit with a short hypnotherapy session. In proper horror fashion, the intensity only escalates as time passes and Chris is freaked out more and more -- all leading to the required shocking finish.
It's difficult to pin down the larger themes of Get Out without veering deep into spoiler territory (an area to which I have no desire to visit in this review), but that won't stop me ascribing proper acclaim to Jordan Peele's work. Obviously modern interracial relationships are put in the spotlight, but it should be noted that the movie doesn't contain a single Hollywood stereotypical racist, or any character who is outwardly against the relationship between Chris and Rose because he's black and she's white. Instead, Peele goes a step beyond the typical with this film, and while never beating the audience over the head, throws some new thoughts out at the audience while all of the steadily-rising creepiness swallows the atmosphere.
To further speak to the air that Get Out creates, it's not just a visually incredible film from a first time director, but really a stunning piece as a constructed whole. The movie's standout moments are its visits to the amazing, paralyzing Sunken Place -- where Chris finds himself during sessions of hypnosis -- but the work from filmmakers like cinematographer Toby Oliver and first-time film composer Michael Abels even manage to make simple shots out a car window feel impressively distressing. Combined with what's demonstrated as Jordan Peele's impressive knack for tone, the feature is repeated mix of eerie beauty, humorous beats, and accented shocks that keep you entirely on edge.
Perpetually keeping you in the movie is also a stellar ensemble cast -- beginning with Daniel Kaluuya, who impressively hides his British accent for a charismatic performance that should ultimately be seen as his breakout leading role. Constantly making you question anything and everything that is going on are Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, and Catherine Keener, who use their innate affability to make you question every move they make. Deserving of special attention, though, is Lil Rel Howery, who plays Chris' best friend and contact in the outside world and steals every single scene he's in.
The last few years have provided us some stunning titles from first-time directors in the horror genre, including Jennifer Kent's The Babadook, Robert Eggers' The Witch and Drew Goddard's The Cabin In The Woods. Jordan Peele's Get Out is the latest title to join that esteemed list, and it's an extremely exciting addition. As previously established, we already knew that Peele was an extraordinarily talented individual, but this movie opens entirely new avenues, and it will be tremendously exciting to see where the path leads him next.