Jordan Peele’s Nope may be written off as his alien movie. The comedic actor turned director shifts his focus upwards toward the unknown. Thankfully, he finds more than one would expect from a movie about unpredictable aliens.
I doubt it will surprise many to learn that his film grasps a higher concept. It’s not a mere slasher picture of aliens gobbling humans, zapping us with death rays, or even trying to phone home. There’s greater symbolism present while still remaining an exciting showcase of thrills only Peele could direct so well.
A Legacy In Film
At the center of Nope is the reserved OJ (Daniel Kaluuya), owner of the Haywood Hollywood horse ranch. He inherited the ranch after a freak accident killed his father and former owner. Now he struggles to keep the ranch afloat, only able to sell horses rather than rent them.
Making his life even more difficult is his imposing sister Emerald (Keke Palmer). She would rather promote her side hustles than embrace the ranch life. While OJ is quiet and stern, Emerald is vocal and forceful in her endeavors.
Kaluuya and Palmer have fantastic chemistry in the Nope movie. They play off each other with perfect comedic timing. While Palmer runs her mouth trying to assert her dominance, Kaluuya always has a perfectly-timed, dead-pan remark to counter.
Something in the Skies In Nope
Bringing the brother and sister together is a discovery made among the clouds. The horses of the ranch are being abducted by some strange entity that could be a UFO. If they find proof and can capture it on film, they could be famous.
The duo sets up the ranch to capture any weird thing that may grace their skies. While they slowly find out more about how this UFO acts, they’re not prepared for what will follow. Even the more knowledgeable tech employee Angel (Brandon Perea) who sets up the camera isn’t sure how to proceed, especially for being the third wheel.
A Creepy UFO
Without giving too much away about the aliens in Nope, there’s far more than a flying saucer involved. The entity encountered becomes a grander metaphor for audiences and asserting control. That being said, it’s still a genuinely terrifying being that feels like a trippy nightmare.
What makes the UFO so intimidating is the sound building towards it. We only hear its cries and zooms from afar, only gaining brief specs of footage when it hides behind clouds. Even when the UFO gets up close and personal, there’s still more spectacle it brings out, transforming into a psychedelic tapestry of unknown thought.
The Control Factor
From the very first scene, Nope seems to be foremost a movie about taming the wild and the dangers of such ambition. We see how trying to place animals in pictures can have disastrous results. It pairs nicely with the focus on cameras and the superstition that they steal our souls.
Ricky (Steven Yeun) is present in the Nope movie as a child actor who has witnessed such shocking encounters with animals. He doesn’t exactly learn much from this experience. Rather than learn about the dangers of creatures who may not want to be filmed, he embraces the allure and showbiz angle that comes along with it.
Another character who is so enraptured by media is the aged cinematographer Antlers Hoist (Michael Wincott). He becomes obsessed with finding the perfect shot and filming that which is not possible to film. Even when he realizes the true dangers of these dreams, he still proceeds by some force that compels him for that one last taste of dopamine.
Nope Is An Immaculate Epic
Nope is by far Peele’s best-looking film. The dusty landscape is vast and entrancing on a grand scale. The depth to which Peele uses the entire stretch of land is incredibly remarkable and a great treat for the eyes.
There’s also a more freeing nature to this film compared to his others. Get Out and Us both featured characters trying to escape from someplace from some evil force. Where exactly do you escape to when the threatening creature is as large as a truck and can loom over any place it wishes?
The cinematography by Hoyte van Hoytema is truly stunning. Everything from the garish western theme park to the loneliness of the ranch is brilliantly staged. Even the Nope opening sequence with a mysterious shot revealing more about the UFO sets the perfect tone.
A Playful Edge
If the Nope movie sounds a bit too high up there in concept, the suspense makes it pleasing enough for any crowd. While our characters may not fully understand that UFO, they’re smart enough to know when not to engage. There’s a perfect moment when OJ refuses to get out of his car and examine the overhead UFO.
It’s the perfect timing for the movie’s tagline but also keeps the focus on giving the alien what it wants. As the entity becomes better understood, it seems as though the alien wants what any horror crowd demands. It wants blood, to be fed, and to be entertained.
So what happens if you don’t feed it? Well, it gets angry, turning violent when nothing happens. It’ll take more than a mere snapshot or gunshot to get rid of this ever-present threat.
There’s also just the perfect amount of comedy present in Nope. Palmer has so many moments of being the eccentric audience surrogate. Kaluuya dominates the screen with a wary approach to being semi-aware of horror movie mechanics, never being an expert but cunning enough in his instincts.
There are lots of little gags throughout as well. Highlights include OJ’s wardrobe consisting of a Scorpion King crew sweater and Emerald performing the AKIRA motorcycle slide. It’s good to know that even a heady film such as Nope still finds room for fun bits like this.
Nope could easily be Jordan Peele’s masterpiece considering how different it becomes from his previous films. It’s bigger, bolder, and has more faith in its narrative to favor a slower build of intensity. There’s also some remarkable imagery that will remain etched in the mind forever.
While exiting the theater, I recall hearing from the audience a familiar phrase that always signals success. When talking about the film, they remarked, “That’s a lot to process.” They said all this with a smile on their faces, signaling that this is a film worth more than one rewatch. This is a fantastic genre mixture from Peele and his best film to date.
Did you see Nope in the theater? How does it compare to Jordan Peele’s other films? Was it better than Get Out? Let us know in the comments below.
Nope is currently playing in theaters.