Last year’s cunning and skillful “Green Room” didn’t receive awards season acknowledgment, but the bloody thriller came closer than any other movie to capturing the troubled mood of 2016.
Now comes another timely genre film, Jordan Peele’s “Get Out.” It’s more than just a standard-issue thriller copied from the current template of popular tropes, with a commanding boldness that makes it essential for the moment.
Daniel Kaluuya, who starred in a memorable episode of “Black Mirror” and was Emily Blunt’s partner in the excellent “Sicario,” stars as Chris, a talented black photographer.
He is dating pretty white girl Rose (Allison Williams) and preparing for a drive to visit Rose’s parents, doctor Dean (Bradley Whitford) and hypnotherapist Missy (Catherine Keener).
Though everyone goes out of his or her way to show Chris that they’re not prejudiced, blackness seems to come up everywhere, especially at an unexpected party filled with privileged white guests.
The few black people Chris encounters, including servants Georgina (Betty Gabriel) and Walter (Marcus Henderson) act very strangely. Things grow even stranger when Missy forcibly hypnotizes Chris to get him to stop smoking.
In a Hitchcock film, the question at this point would be whether something diabolical is going on, or whether it’s all in Chris’ head.
Peele effortlessly establishes this mystery, but it’s also far from the main point of “Get Out.”
For every assured, effective camera placement — Peele takes inspiration from Polanski, Roeg and Kubrick — he also provides a troubling and compassionate look at racism and blackness.
Despite the best intentions of those around him, Chris deals constantly with repercussions based on the color of his skin.
Peele handles it subtly, frequently through performance — Chris’s complex reactions are alternately appreciative, dismissive or frustrated — and without rage or preaching.
Peele, of course, is a member of the comedy team Key and Peele, stars of television as well as last year’s hilarious feature “Keanu,” which Peele co-wrote; “Get Out” is his directorial debut, and it’s a surprising move, but also a smart one.
He even includes welcome comic relief in the form of Lil Rel Howery, as Chris’ best friend, a TSA agent whose help is greatly appreciated. Howery’s character shouldn’t quite fit into this mix, but it does, intricately.
This is an excellent, tense entertainment. “Get Out” offers just what we need right now, shocks, surprises, a few good laughs, and a few deep thoughts.
Three and a half stars
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener
Written and directed by: Jordan Peele
Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutesAllison WilliamsBradley WhitfordCatherine KeenerDaniel KaluuyaGet OutJordan PeeleMovies and TV