With award season fast approaching, some early favourites have emerged, with Dunkirk the current frontrunner, Gary Oldman receiving strong buzz for his performance in Darkest Hour, Frances McDormand getting the same kind of buzz for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and The Post featuring the heavyweight combination of Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep and Steven Spielberg. Bet against those three at your peril.
But there’s another film that’s in with a chance; a sleeper smash that became one of the most talked about movies in years. And that film is Get Out. Trouble is, Jordan Peele’s acclaimed flick faces two major issues when it comes to the silly season.
Firstly, it was released in February, and Oscar voters tend to have short memories, which is why prestige pictures frequently come out at the end of the year. It will therefore require a sizeable marketing campaign to remind the Academy just how good Get Out is.
Secondly, it’s a genre picture, which generally don’t win the big awards. Some of the greatest films in history are horror — from Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist to Alien and The Shining. But they all failed to win the Best Picture Oscar, with Silence of the Lambs the only scary movie to take home that particular honour.
So Get Out faces an uphill battle. But we think it deserves to win at least three of the big awards…
Jordan Peele‘s screenplay is pretty much perfect; a well-oiled scare-machine that effortlessly shifts from comedy to horror and then back again, sometimes in the same scene.
Peele calls it a ‘social thriller’ and even programmed a festival earlier this year that featured the films that inspired him. And you can see elements of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, The People Under The Stairs and Funny Games in his Get Out script.
But it never seems derivative, the screenplay subverting expectations with every twist and turn, tackling serious issues with a light touch, and going bat-sh*t crazy in the film’s final third.
With his background in comedy — as one half of Key and Peele — Jordan knows a thing-or-two about setting up and paying off a joke. And Get Out is the horror equivalent of that, the first half setting up scary stuff that all pays off as that shocking finale nears. So as we said, a near-perfect script. Though we still can’t figure out how that auction works.
As well as deserving credit for his screenplay, Jordan Peele should be honoured for his work behind the camera, with Get Out a remarkable directorial debut. He honed his skills putting together sketches for the Key and Peele show — some of them genre-themed — but it’s remarkable how effortlessly he’s made the move into horror via a film this confident and assured.
Combining that genre with elements of comedy, thriller and social commentary is no simple task, but Peele manages to maintain a consistent tone throughout, while the pace is spot-on, the film moving up through the gears as race relations sour and the horror becomes more pronounced.
Then there’s the experimental, almost avant-garde combination of imagery and sound that brings ‘The Sunken Place‘ to life. It could have been silly or unintentionally funny, but thanks to Peele’s understated approach to the conceit, it’s utterly chilling.
Finally, the film is filled with suspense, the director wringing every last drop of tension out of the premise. Making Get Out almost unbearable to watch. But in the best way possible.
This is obviously the big one. But also an award that Get Out thoroughly deserves. The aforementioned script and direction make it a very special film, and while I’m not sure that the acting is Oscar-worthy, there are fine performances wherever you look. Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams do indeed seem like the perfect couple, before the cracks start appearing. Then it’s a blast watching their characters go on two very different journeys.
Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener are terrific as the parents from hell, constantly wrong-footing Daniel’s character — and, as a by-product, the audience. And the supporting roles are filled with fine character actors, Lakeith Stanfield and Betty Gabriel doing heartbreaking work, and LilRel Howery providing some of the biggest laughs of the year.
Critical consensus isn’t always a great indicator of quality, but Get Out does have a 99% score on Rotten Tomatoes. It also grossed $250m from a budget of just $4.5m. People were ready for a film like this, and thanks to great word-of-mouth, it loitered around the top of the U.S. charts for more than a month. It was the movie you simply had to see. Maybe more than once.
To cap it all off, Get Out is an important film. One that encourages audiences to face their own fears, weaknesses and flaws by looking within. And yet Jordan Peele manages to make the grim soul-searching and self-reflection somehow palatable.
To craft a feature this dark and disturbing — dealing as it does with issues of race, segregation and even the prison-industrial complex — and to make it this damn entertaining is a pretty incredible achievement, and one that deserves all the Oscars. Or at least these three.