In 2017, examining America’s issues with racism is fertile ground for artists and activists alike. Get Out, from comedian Jordan Peele, puts black male protagonist Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) in his girlfriend’s (Allison WIlliams) parents’ regressive Southern town, where unsettling servants and multitudes of microaggression lead to true violence and horror.
The film earned a spectacular 100% on Rotten Tomatoes so far a rating earned by few, including a mere four titles in 2016 (Things to Come (L’avenir), Tower, Only Yesterday and O.J.: Made in America). Films come close, certainly but all it takes is one less-than-perfect assessment to bring down the average from that coveted three-digit division.
It just seemed to be a very taboo piece of the discussion to talk about something so horrific as racism in any type of genre other than a film about slavery or something, Peele told USA Today.
So what do critics think of the genre-smashing twisty thriller? They love it.
Peele has already garnered praise for his debut as a feature director, a night-and-day difference from writing last year’s Keanu with comedy partner Keegan-Michael Key. Rolling Stone‘s Peter Travers praised Peele’s mastery in Get Out:
Not to give anything away, but you should know that the mixed-race Peele is having the time of his life juggling horror and laughs to skewer of the hypocrisies of race in America. For a first-time director, working from his own script, Peele comes up aces, bringing all the elements of filmmaking together to raise tension and awareness.
The Hollywood Reporter‘s John DeFore points specifically to Peele’s eye for horror:
Suffice to say that Peele, whose TV show displayed a sharp eye for the things that make various genres tick, pairs his expertly paced screenplay with a flair for memorable detail from a rec room suitable for Kubrick, to a blind art dealer, to the methodical way a slender girl enjoys a sugary treat.
In a Sundance review for Collider, Matt Goldberg emphasized that Get Out isn’t speaking to neo-Nazi racism, but to the more latent version that many don’t even know they enact:
Get Out is a stinging criticism of the white liberalism that carries itself as empathetic towards blacks, but that empathy only extends as far as white control…[Peele] wants us to empathize with Chris not just on the level of Chris being black, but that his minority status makes him vulnerable to what Roses suspicious parents and their friends have in store. Get Out is scary not because of the specifics of the situationagain, its not like the film is warning about powerful hypnotists in our midstbut because of the racial and power dynamic it presents.
A.A. Dowd of The A.V. Clubnoted those same subtleties and how much of the so-called horror is rooted in paranoia.
Theres a nefarious conspiracy here for audiences to unpack, and its all part of the way Peele uses a genre framework to explore how racism survives and mutates in an All Lives Matter culture, taking different insidious shapes. Early into the films terrific first hour, Chris and Rose run afoul a bullying bigot of a state trooperan offhand encounter that drips with the implicit (and sadly headline-topical) threat of police brutality. But Get Out also gets into more submerged forms of prejudice in the charged interactions between Chris and Roses family.
Variety‘s Peter Debruge notes the film is clearly intended to provoke, and that it does so on an expert level:
Clearly, Get Out will play very differently to black and white audiences and if the film doesnt rile a significant contingent of the latter, it simply isnt doing its job. But theres something telling in the underlying anxiety that Peeles script exploits, from the opening scene (in which an uneasy black man walking alone in a predominately white suburb recalls the fate of Trayvon Martin) to the last, when the arrival of a police car suggests a near-certain turn for the worse.
Entertainment Weekly‘s Chris Nashawaty gave the film a B, but like his peers he praises the film’s pervasive unease:
And one of Peeles best jokes is how he turns her parents stately, well-appointed, safe surroundings into something ominous and loaded with menace and dread. He makes you feel Chris sense of not belongingthe icy fear of being an outsider.
Michael Phillips of The Chicago Tribunegave the movie 3.5 stars and criticism for mixing disparate tone, but concluded that ultimately, it all works.
It’s a little of everything: unnerving, funny in just the right way and at the right times, serious about its observations and perspectives on racial animus, straight-up populist when it comes to an increasingly (but not sadistically) violent climax.
Get Out is in theaters Feb. 24.