After a shaky opening half hour, the plot pieces slowly come together until, at the one-hour mark, our hero is in a real tight spot.
Daniel Kaluuya and the writer/director Jordan Peele get us into the character’s skin as he encounters a family of patronizing liberal whites. This is not a small achievement (for a white audience) and a brilliant way to get the viewer’s defenses down. Siding with Chris is easy with such a-holes around. I’m not kidding when I say this ‘just entertainment’ movie could get racists to actually think about racism in a new way–one of the uses for genre material.
Peele has to be a fan of Richard Matheson and Ira Levin; it has a sequence out of Stir of Echoes, and so many ‘parallels’ to The Stepford Wives…
Good, traditional score; no pounding drums.
Good supporting characters, especially Betty Gabriel as a creepy maid whose big scene involves her walking toward our hero and apologizing for touching his iphone. Her smiling-through-tears response is shocking and scary.
Erika Alexander as a cop is hilarious. Lil Rel Howery is funny, until he’s not anymore.
The hero falls for an incredibly boring girl.
After the amusing idea that the evil racist villains aren’t rednecks but white liberals is exhausted, there’s nowhere else to go but routine capture-and-escape and violence. I’ts well done but routine. I kind of checked out.
It feels good when the hero fights back. I was grateful it didn’t go for a cynical ending. But the humor hurts it.
Most of the humor comes in the last half hour, when things should be most tense. And the really stupid stuff happens here.
This is supposed to be some kind of statement on race, but when the hero asks, “Why are you doing this to black people?” the Evil Explainer says “I don’t know…” and gives some vague explanation about difference, or change–EVERYONE involved wants to do this to a black person? I get it, the libs who are envious of blacks thing. But it doesn’t make sense.
Why go to all that trouble to become someone who chops wood and takes care of the kitchen? If these are just performances to put on a show, why not have them be regular neighbors–less suspicious than all these robotic servants.
Why is there a tape AND an Explainer explaining things to the person they captured? Just kill him! (The explanation is along the lines of “it helps with the transition”–you don’t need a transition to have your brain scooped out.)
The climactic action involves a super-brilliant villain giving a gun to someone who’s just been turned back into a good guy right in front of her. She KNOWS the flash ‘scrambles’ the possessed person, and she SEES it happen. Maybe she was tired.
Watchable, slick, a lead who deserved his Oscar nomination, but the last half hour really hurts it. I suspect it won’t be considered a classic in the long run, once the applause for it being about racism fades.