Photo Credit: Universal Pictures
So I have been trying to see this movie for two weeks now, but I was just able to see it today, but let me just say that this movie is amazing. For the past two weeks I have been avoiding every single article, tweet, and Facebook post that even references the film so I wasn’t too sure what to expect when I walked into the theater since my knowledge of the plot only spanned what I knew from the one trailer I watched on YouTube.
Before I start, let me just say that this movie is not horror in the sense that you will be hanging onto the edge of your seat, waiting for a jump scare at every corner. To be honest, I was anticipating for this film to be much scarier than it actually was, but overall the storyline was pretty suspenseful and the plot was very engaging. Watching this film was almost like watching two separate movies in one. The first part of the film focuses on the subtle racism that Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) must endure while visiting his white girlfriend Rose Armitage’s (Allison Williams) family for the first time.
The initial meeting of the family as well as seeing the dynamic between Rose’s parents and their black servants makes Chris realize that something is amiss although he cannot place it. The turning point of the film that leads into the second act is a party that is hosted by Rose’s family in honor of her late grandfather. Chris sees another black man and tries to connect with him and is put off by his odd behavior. Chris then attempts to take a photo of the man, but the flash from Chris’s phone camera triggers the man and releases him from his programmed behavior. The man then grabs Chris and tells him that he is in danger.
This event leads us into the second plot point. Aside from the subtle racism that Chris has endured throughout his stay at the hands of Rose’s family and friends, Chris realizes that the Armitage family has sold him at the highest bidder to a wealthy art dealer who wants to trade bodies with him. Better yet, Chris is not the first person that this has happened to, but instead Rose has been used as bait to lure dozens of other black men to the Armitage estate for the same purpose.
When I first heard about this movie, I didn’t know how to react. Even sitting in the theater I was getting anxious because I kept waiting for Rose’s family to call Chris racial slurs or do something incredibly violent to him, but that uneasy feeling just added to the suspenseful nature of the film. Rose and her family are avid Obama supporters and are all upper class individuals with prestigious occupations. Even in scenes when they are literally ready to murder Chris, they are still oddly nice to Chris and speak to him in a civil manner, yet they view him as less than. The family is oddly polite as are their friends who bid on him like a slave at a slave auction. In fact even the man who buys Chris is weirdly nice to him, which makes the film even more creepy and surreal.
The subtlety of this movie is what truly made me love it. The plot of the film gives audiences themes that allow them to think critically about what is going on in our society today in terms of race relations. I, personally, am sick of films that bash audiences over the head with an intended message. I feel as though when films go the route of being too heavy-handed on issues like racism by using extreme imagery and language such as black people being brutalized and characters shouting racial slurs, it allows the audience to see racism as a black and white issue and allows them to walk away saying “I’m not racist, because I don’t fit that specific mold.” Making Rose’s family civil and liberal allows us to see another side of racism that isn’t always noticeable.