I won’t lie. I went into Jordan Peele’s third film, Nope, without knowing much about it. Then I caught a trailer in front of another big movie. I was nervous about it. Not for the harrowing scenes, the trailer showed. Instead, it didn’t capture my imagination like the trailer for Get Out did or the horrors that befall us in Us.
I was probably in a bad mood when I saw the trailer because it did its job beautifully! And boy, was I wrong about the movie!
In Nope, Peele took the best elements from an already strong Get Out and the horrors he depicted from Us, making an out-of-this-world science fiction horror film the likes audiences haven’t seen in a while.
It would be easy to compare some of the more Spielbergian aspects of this story to that great director’s work. That would be a mistake because Peele has created a wholly unique story in which a family uncovers clues to an elusive unidentified object in the skies over their isolated California home, and they want to capture irrefutable proof of the visitors.
Daniel Kaluuya plays OJ Haywood, a rancher with a stable of horses used for Hollywood productions; an aspect Peele lays out in the film’s opening frames. Even in these early scenes, Peele offers clues as to what’s to come. As with Get Out and Us, the story requires your attention; it demands it. Kaluuya gives the same relaxed, even-keeled performance as in Get Out as he tries to make sense of a recurring visit from the UFO with a particularly keen interest in his ranch.
Steven Yeun’s Ricky “Jupe” Park adds further clues as to what’s happening. However, Peele keeps the visuals vague enough to pique your interest while horrifically, subliminally calling them later in the film. Something uniquely out of place and awkward with Jupe made the character even more enjoyable. As with anything Peele comes up with, there is a rhyme and reason for this.
OJ’s sister, Em, played by Keke Palmer, is perhaps the most normal character in the film – she’s blasting music from an LP deck as OJ investigates a disturbance on the property, unaware of what’s happening. She quickly gets a clue as an unrelated deal between OJ and Jupe brings the three characters together.
References to the title pop up as a running gag throughout the film, and humor slices through the horror and Sci-Fi elements like a hot knife through butter. The main cast is incredible, but the supporting cast adds dimensionality to the film was unexpected. Brandon Perea’s Angel Torres, a curious salesperson and installation technician. Michael Wincott’s Antlers Holst, an award-winning cinematographer who OJ and Em enlist to help catch an image of the visitors.
If the film shines from its performances, it achieves sheer brilliance on a technical level. Peele enlisted the efforts of Hoyte van Hoytema to lens Nope, and the spectacle of what he managed to capture was breathtaking. Pay particular attention to how van Hoytema (Dunkirk, Interstellar) trains the camera on the horses and the surrounding environment in the film. Michael Abels returns to Peele’s stable, offering an eerie, thought-provoking score.
Similarly, the sound design from Johnnie Burn (Waves) is spectacular. The studio presented the film for review in IMAX, with Peele taking advantage of using IMAX film cameras. The film benefits from both, offering razor-sharp imaging and dynamic sound. (I can only imagine what the film will sound and look like in a Dolby Cinema!)
Some early reviews have questioned the nature of the film’s third act, and the film may leave audiences divided. I’ve hemmed and hawed over the story since seeing the film; the clues to Peele’s tesseract of a puzzle box are all there. It might take a second viewing to pick up on what might have been missed the first time, but there’s also enough interest to draw you back into the world Peele created, the same as in Get Out or Us. Nope is not as topical as his previous efforts, and it doesn’t need to be. In fact, I have more respect for Nope because of its inventiveness.
YEP, I loved Nope.
Written and Directed by Jordan Peele
Starring Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun, Brandon Perea, Michael Wincott, Wrenn Schmidt, Keith David
130 mins, R, Universal Pictures