This is a SPOILER-FREE REVIEW FOR NOPE. The only thing discussed about the plot is what’s seen in the trailers.
Jordan Peele is the next in line for those crossover blockbuster directors like Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter, or Francis Ford Coppola, he might even be at their level with his first three films. Through his first two films Get Out and Us, Peele made horror accessible to a broad audience. Nope continues in that trend, but instead of taking on slashers or thrillers, it takes on the blockbuster. Others have said that the film feels very much like Jaws, and while I didn’t draw that comparison immediately, that’s exactly what Nope is. The film takes that premise, and expands on it, it adds valuable commentary to it and modernizes it. In Peele’s films, the subtext and symbolism are often scarier than the monsters on screen.
It stars Daniel Kaluuya as OJ, whose father (Keith David) recently passed away in a freak accident. They run a horse ranch that specializes in Hollywood productions for horses. Due to debts, OJ has to sell horses to their neighbor Ricky ‘Jupe’ Park (Steven Yuen), a former child star who runs a theme park now. Through all of this, old family wounds reopen when his sister, Emerald, (Keke Palmer) comes back into OJ’s life. That’s not even where the hook for Nope comes in.
Strange occurrences happen with the horses on the ranch and certain meteorological anomalies develop. Trust me when I say that the trailers for Nope might feel like they give it away, but they don’t at all.
Peele Lambasts Hollywood And Makes The Blockbuster His Own
There’s plenty in Nope that’s about monsters and the Hollywood structure, but it goes full bore into how short-term Hollywood’s memory is. There are certain scenes in Nope about painful and violent memories for Jupe on the set of a sitcom, but it also goes all the way back to the first person on film. OJ and Emerald are descendants of the very first man on screen, whose name has been forgotten in time. The commentary in Nope doesn’t stop there, but that’s really the main vein of the film.
All the characters seem to have been forgotten in time. Whether that’s a child star trying to remake his name, or OJ and Emerald getting their father’s business back to form. Even some of the side characters like the excellent performances by Brandon Perea as Angel or Michael Wincott as cinematographer Antlers Holst. It’s a small cast for such a huge plot, but the characters do plenty of heavy lifting. Daniel Kaluuya smolders as OJ. He’s heroic, complex, and commands attention at every point in the film. His performance feels a lot like Roy Scheider in Jaws. He never loses his cool and through even the most frightening and horrific moments, he’s still collected.
If Keke Palmer wasn’t a household name before this movie, she will be after. She gets most of the best lines of dialogue in the film and has the most satisfying arc. She outshines some truly great performances. Where Kaluuya acts with his body language and facial expressions mostly, Palmer gets to stretch with the comedic bits of Nope, especially when she’s interacting with Jupe in his office. Both actors have wonderful chemistry with one another and are completely believable as brother and sister.
Packing In More Genres Than Horror, But Keeping That As A Throughline
Some of the best movies of all-time blend together multiple genres seamlessly. Nope combines western, sci-fi, horror, action, thriller, and comedy all into one package. At parts, the horror takes over, whereas, in the third act, those western themes and music really kick in. The striking visuals of the valley where most of the film takes place are beautiful and juxtaposed with the big bad of the film and inflatable tube men. The first half might be a little slow, but once it kicks into gear, Nope is thrilling.
Luckily for all of us out there, the trailers give away almost nothing from Nope. The twists and turns are intact for you to enjoy and go along for the ride with these characters.
Get Out was up front and center with what the critiques and themes were. Us was a little murkier, and Nope fits a bit more into that territory. It’s still Peele’s most accessible film that takes sci-fi horror and blends humor and action with it. That’s just the surface level though. Once you dip deeper, you get to where the biting critique lies. Past that, there’s even more likely, but this is a movie that’s probably best after seeing it a couple of times. Like the characters in the film, in the most horrific scenes, you’ll be whispering along…
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