It’s not often one watches a new movie at a pre-release press conference and can tell that’s going to be an important, special movie. But that was certainly the case back in February of 2017, when Jordan Peele’s Get Out debuted.
Peele’s debut film, which had premiered the previous month at Sundance and arrived in theaters February 24 of that year — 5 years ago this week — was a great movie. But more than that, it arrived at the perfect time, the opening weeks of the Trump presidency.
These days, roughly half of film discourse is about movies of the past that couldn’t be made today. Get Out could not possibly have been made at any point earlier than it was.
Most of all, Get Out did something pretty radical, that arrived right on time: It made a movie about American racial prejudice in which the villains were not rednecks, Klansmen, or other traditional racist bad guys, but rather nice white liberals, who “would have voted for Obama a third time if I could.” At that exact moment, this was something that undoubtedly struck a nerve. The film also coined the phrase “The Sunken Place,” which instantly entered the lexicon:
Peele, best known up until that point as half of Key & Peele, drew on a long tradition of body-snatching horror movies, paired with a social consciousness perfect for its time. Get Out starred Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams as an interracial couple going to visit her wealthy parents (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener).
The parents are outwardly friendly and welcoming at first, but things slowly take a creepy turn once the mom forces a hypnosis session, and then there’s an auction involving the parents’ rich friends. The key is that the revelations aren’t so much a shocking plot twist, but rather a slow burn.
Get Out has also set off a new wave of horror films that tied in with political and racial elements, most of which (especially stuff like Antebellum) haven’t threaded that difficult needle quite as easily. But it’s also led to movies like Sorry to Bother You, BlacKKKlansman, and Judas and Black Messiah (also starring Kaluuya), that have gone in daring and audacious directions when it comes to race. Peele himself directed a successful follow-up effort, Us, and has a third film on the way, Nope, this summer.
Get Out can be rented on Amazon Prime and other VOD channels, but if you have a chance to see it on a big screen, do. This is a movie that must be seen with a crowd.