“Get Out” (2017): Unpacking Layers of Social Commentary and Cinematic Brilliance – Film Review

Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, “Get Out” (2017), is a film that not only revitalized the horror genre but also infused it with sharp social commentary, making it a critical and commercial juggernaut. This psychological thriller cum social satire is layered with themes of racial tension, liberal hypocrisy, and the commodification of black bodies, making it a rich subject for analysis. Through a blend of horror and comedy, Peele crafts a narrative that is both entertaining and thought-provoking, pushing viewers to confront uncomfortable truths about society.

The Genesis and Production of a Masterpiece

“Get Out” was born from Jordan Peele’s desire to create a film that captured the black experience, particularly the fear and anxiety of being an African American. Drawing inspiration from classic horror films and episodes of “The Twilight Zone,” Peele sought to make a movie that highlighted the horror of racial dynamics in a post-racial America. The production of “Get Out” was a meticulous process, with Peele working closely with his team to ensure that every aspect of the film, from the script to the cinematography, contributed to its overarching themes.

One of the most notable behind-the-scenes aspects of “Get Out” is its budget. Produced on a modest budget of approximately $4.5 million, the film grossed over $255 million worldwide, showcasing the power of innovative storytelling combined with social relevance. Peele’s ability to do more with less is evident in his choice of locations, the use of lighting to create mood, and the performances he elicits from his cast.

Unpacking the Narrative

At the heart of “Get Out” is the story of Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya), a young African American photographer who uncovers a disturbing secret when he visits the family of his white girlfriend, Rose Armitage (Allison Williams). The film uses this premise to explore the commodification of black bodies and the facade of liberal progressiveness. Through Chris’s eyes, we’re taken on a journey that starts with subtle discomfort and leads to outright terror, mirroring the real-world experiences of many African Americans.

Peele cleverly uses horror tropes to underscore his critique of race relations. The Armitage family’s initial overeagerness to prove their non-racism, highlighted by Dean Armitage’s (Bradley Whitford) awkward comments about voting for Obama a third time if he could, quickly unveils a more sinister reality. This duality serves as a commentary on the performative allyship of white liberals, who may harbor their own forms of racism and entitlement over black bodies.

Racial Issues and Foreboding

The film’s exploration of the commodification of black bodies, the false veneer of post-racial harmony, and the deep-seated fears of African Americans in predominantly white spaces echoed the real-world experiences that were highlighted by the protests. The incident involving George Floyd and the subsequent outcry brought to the forefront the racial divides that “Get Out” had already been commenting on, making the film’s critique of society’s underlying racism and the illusion of a post-racial America even more poignant.

In the context of the George Floyd incident, “Get Out” can be seen as prescient, highlighting the systemic issues that contribute to racial disparities and violence against African Americans. The film’s portrayal of the Sunken Place, where the protagonist, Chris, is rendered powerless and silenced, can metaphorically represent the experiences of many black individuals in America who feel marginalized and voiceless in the face of systemic racism.

The discussions and reflections “Get Out” inspired upon its release gained renewed vigor in the aftermath of Floyd’s death. Many viewers and critics revisited the film, finding its themes eerily predictive of the societal reckonings that followed. It reaffirmed the racial divides in America, showing how deeply entrenched they are in the fabric of society and how they manifest in both overt and subtle ways.

Jordan Peele’s work with “Get Out” was seen as a cultural milestone that used the horror genre to reveal the true horror of racism and its effects on the psyche and well-being of African Americans. The global response to the George Floyd incident underscored the relevance of Peele’s message, demonstrating the power of cinema to anticipate and reflect upon the most pressing issues of our time.

Thus, while “Get Out” did not directly address the George Floyd incident, its thematic concerns and the societal critique embedded within its narrative became all the more significant in its aftermath. The film served as a catalyst for conversation and reflection on racial dynamics in America, highlighting the urgent need for change and understanding in the ongoing struggle against racism and inequality.

Symbolism and Cinematography

“Get Out” is rich in symbolism, from the use of the color red to signify the protagonists’ imminent danger to the deer motif, which parallels Chris’s own predicament as a hunted being. The “Sunken Place” represents the marginalization of black voices, a place of silenced screams and forced spectatorship, which Peele describes as a metaphor for the black experience in America.

The cinematography, led by Toby Oliver, plays a crucial role in building tension and immersing the audience in Chris’s psychological state. The use of long takes and close-ups, especially in scenes where Chris is hypnotized, creates a claustrophobic atmosphere that emphasizes his vulnerability and isolation.

The Impact and Legacy

“Get Out” has left an indelible mark on both the horror genre and cultural discourse. It not only earned Jordan Peele an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay but also sparked widespread discussion about the intersection of race and genre filmmaking. The film’s success paved the way for more stories that tackle social issues through the lens of horror, demonstrating the genre’s potential to challenge and engage audiences on deeper levels.

Moreover, “Get Out” has become a cultural touchstone, with phrases like “the Sunken Place” entering the lexicon as shorthand for systemic oppression. Its impact is a testament to the power of storytelling that dares to confront societal demons, wrapped in the package of a film that is as entertaining as it is enlightening.

In Retrospect

“Get Out” is a masterclass in how to blend genre conventions with acute social commentary. Jordan Peele’s debut is a testament to the power of horror as a vehicle for exploring the complexities of race, identity, and society. It stands not only as a landmark film of the 2010s but as a blueprint for future filmmakers seeking to use genre cinema to tell stories that resonate on multiple levels. From its nuanced performances and meticulous direction to its biting critique of American race relations, “Get Out” remains a pivotal, unflinching examination of the black American experience, wrapped in the guise of a thriller that is as intellectually stimulating as it is viscerally chilling.

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