Any fan of horror will appreciate what kind of impact and change Jordan Peele has provided to the genre. You often associate his name with the likes of Robert Eggers and Ari Aster, new directors who have quickly become household names by their very refreshing take on the horror genre. Part of that rejuvenation comes with the fact that you don’t really know what to expect, and that their films are very cryptic. They’re great conversation pieces after watching them. With the likes of Peele’s other films Get Out and Us, nope is very much on that cryptic level and when it is finally unravelled, it is a lot different from what I was expecting. This film marks a really big change in what we’ve come to expect from Jordan Peele, but it’s more a streamlined change than a complete reinvention.
As we all know with Jordan Peele, nothing is ever open and shut when it comes to the story, Nope carries this on by having its audience connect many dots until the true meaning of the film is realised. What is that true meaning you ask? Well, it’s our obsession with “spectacle” as the film describes. On the surface, Nope follows two horse ranchers OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald (Keke Palmer) out to capture proof of a UFO that is taking the horses on their ranch, but Nope is so much more than that. To unravel Nope, you have to focus a lot on the character of Jupe (Steven Yeun) a theme park owner and former child actor on the fictional sitcom Gordy’s Home that starred a chimpanzee which ended in a horrific tragedy. For some, these scenes may seem like a divergence, but they explain Nope’s theme of spectacle in the clearest way because it explains that we often don’t consider the consequences of exploiting something to achieve something perfect. You have to dig a lot deeper than Get Out or Us to search for this, but once you make this realisation, there are so many open doors to enter.
Let’s look into the two prominent characters of Nope, OJ and Emerald. Two very polar opposite characters in terms of energy. OJ is more reserved and quiet, after the death of his father Otis Sr. (Keith David) which we see in the film’s opening, OJ’s biggest concern is saving the business and his father’s legacy. Emerald on the other hand is a big ball of enthusiasm and jovialness. I can see why Jordan Peele considers Daniel Kaluuya as his “De Niro”, but naturally it’s the performance with the biggest amount of energy that I gravitated towards. Keke Palmer is simply excellent and brings a lot of fun to the film.
Being that the film is about spectacle, the cinematography is also a spectacle. The UFO sequences are all filmed in a similar fashion with the camera scanning the skies. Filmed mostly in IMAX format, this allows the entire landscape of the Haywood Ranch to be in the frame. But it’s the night-time scenes where you can really understand why they chose to film in IMAX. the cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema, who is also a common collaborator with Christopher Nolan, is a master of the IMAX camera, the landscapes in Nope are massive and truly a spectacle. I will say in addition that to any anime fans watching this film, there is one shot in particular that will blow your mind. You’ll know it when you see it.
I will say as a precaution to those thinking they know what to expect from Nope, although it is technically a horror film, I wouldn’t exactly categorise it as one. Whereas Get Out was more racial commentary oriented and Us was pure horror orientated, Nope is definitely orientated towards the marvel side of filmmaking. Some critics draw on early Spielberg blockbusters for familiarity, which may be what some people enjoy, it’s satisfying to see a director evolving his craft, but if you were hoping for something typical of Jordan Peele, Nope isn’t going to deliver you that.
The spectacle theme though prominent only really works best when it makes the audience think. I’ve discussed how in areas of Nope the theme works as Peele intended it, but now let’s look at an example of the theme being too obvious. One scene involves a TMZ reporter looking to beat OJ and Emerald to get the perfect shot. Because the UFO creates electrical blackouts, the reporter is flung off his electric bike and injured, but rather than get help, he asks OJ to get his injuries on camera. While being one of the funniest moments in the film, it is an example of the film just openly telling you what it’s really about. Since Peele has built his filmmaking career around creating films people love to dig up the hidden meaning of, it’s a shame he has to be so blatant in this scene.
In all honesty though, I love the fact that Peele is always building his trademark with every film he makes. Nope is another steppingstone in his career that gives us that fills a gap in the science fiction horror genre. Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer work brilliantly together, not to mention an equally good performance from Steven Yeun. It’s a resounding yep from me and I hope I share that conclusion with Peele fans. It leaves you in the same place as you left after the end of Us, wondering what’s next.
Final Result: 8/10 – Very Good
Have you seen Nope? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: Fisherman’s Friends: One and All