Socialist Worker

Get Out - a film that taps into the horror of life in a racist society

This new US blockbuster hones in on racism—casual and overt, writes Ken Olende

Issue No. 2546

When Chris (Daniel Kaluuya, right) meets other black people in the suburbs, they are trapped in hell

When Chris (Daniel Kaluuya, right) meets other black people in the suburbs, they are trapped in hell


Black photographer Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is driving out of the city with his white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) to spend the weekend with her wealthy parents.

Chris is nervous because they have not met before and she hasn’t told them that he’s black. She tells him not to worry because they’re liberals and her dad will say his biggest regret is that he couldn’t vote for Barack Obama a third time.

But before they arrive a roadside encounter with a cop’s racism changes the mood. Chris is relaxed about this everyday occurrence, but Rose is outraged.

The spectre of Black Lives Matter hovers over the film, from the opening scene when we watch an increasingly uncomfortable black man lost at night in a leafy white suburb.

The film was made in Alabama where echoes of lynching and the auction block are never far away.

But any black person who has grown up in Britain will recognise the frightfully polite genteel bigotry where nothing “offensive” is said but the racist assumptions remain naked.

Twists

Sometimes it is hard to tell if Get Out is a dark comedy, a romance, a horror film or even a police missing person thriller. As the plot twists and turns it mixes bits from all these genres.

It’s also very funny. Chris has to put up with upper middle class whites trying to talk street slang, and assuming he is “genetically” better at sports. Much of the entitlement of the whites comes from confidence in their class position.

But more than that, something in this leafy town is just wrong.

The most unsettling thing is the behaviour of the few local black people. They are always grinning and saying how they love it.

Yet at some points in the film the camera focuses tightly on the face of each black character, while they stare back in desperation, unable to speak, as a line of sweat runs down their face. Those are the film’s most sinister moments.

Although it is director Jordan Peele’s first feature, this is beautifully paced and structured. Peele, who has a black father but was brought up by his white mother, said recently that he used to find racism ridiculous, but now “a fairly consistent part of my experience is worrying about how I’m going to be perceived in the ‘wrong’ neighbourhood.

“I’m trying to get through it as quickly as possible,” he added.

Chris repeatedly phones his best friend Rod back in the city looking for support. Rod works for the Transportation Security Administration, part of Homeland Security. At first Rod’s paranoid assumptions seem ludicrous, but as time goes on they seem to make more sense.

Get Out is a satire and doesn’t offer political solutions, but it is funny and scary and everyone should see it.

Some of the things that happen are over the top, but how could they be anything else? The reality of racism is nonsensical and ridiculous.

Get Out, directed by Jordan Peele, is in cinemas now

Man Down represents a society brutalised by war

Shia LaBeouf as the shell-shocked marine Gabriel Drummer in Man Down

Shia LaBeouf as the shell-shocked marine Gabriel Drummer in Man Down


Another film about the “war on terror” through a US soldier’s eyes could easily be a guilty liberal fantasy.

With Man Down’s main protagonist as shell-shocked marine Gabriel Drummer (Shia LaBeouf), the film does come close to doing this at different points.

In a small Afghan town, Drummer’s unit came under attack from snipers.

While storming the tenements he murders an Afghan mother and her young son who opened fire inside the building.

In their dying faces, Drummer sees his wife and son.

But while seen through the soldier’s eyes, there is a focus on ordinary Afghans, the real victims of the so-called war on terror.

As Drummer is interviewed about the incident, we see how the Fox News propaganda about the war that he has watched clashes with the reality.

As the film develops, the marine’s internal turmoil grows as these lies clash more and more with his experiences.

LaBeouf gives a convincing portrayal of this that draws you in but doesn’t brush over the reality of what his character has done.

In its second half the film takes a peculiar and disorienting turn into a seemingly post-apocalyptic US.

Drummer ends up desperately searching for his family in a country that has itself been ravaged by war.

Just as he thinks he’s found them, all is not as it appears.

Drummer isn’t just a shell-shocked soldier, but represents a society that has been lied to, brutalised and broken.

The war has been “brought home” not by terrorists but by our marine protagonist.

Tomáš Tengely-Evans

Man Down, directed by Dito Montiel, is in cinemas 31 March

The Salesman shows up liberal sexism

Taraneh Alidoosti as Rana (left) and Shahab Hosseini as Emad (right)

Taraneh Alidoosti as Rana (left) and Shahab Hosseini as Emad (right)


At the heart of The Salesman is a strong metaphor for how, when placed under pressure, liberalism is every bit as sexist as conservatism.

The protagonists are a couple, Rana and Emad, playing the lead characters in a production of Arthur Miller’s 1949 play Death of a Salesman.

Rana is attacked in their home—we’re kept guessing at the full details of the attack. Emad is full of impotent rage as he drives himself to distraction in search of the attacker.

Rana’s protests are ignored as the relationship goes into freefall.

An underwhelming confrontation grinds out to a bleak conclusion.

Some of the metaphors in the film—such as an “earthquake” caused by a digger to give a sense of the seismic shifts to come—are clunky.

There is a feeling of incompleteness thanks to the lack of resolution in a conventional sense and perhaps that’s the film’s strongest quality.

The Salesman, directed by Asghar Farhadi, is in cinemas now

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