If Get Out (2017) was his ground-breaking debut, Us (2019) was his divisive powerhouse of a follow up, then Nope (2022) is Jordan Peele’s first attempt at a blockbuster. And OH, what an attempt it is. In a glorious stretch where the horror genre is thriving and bursting with innovative directors/writers such as: Ari Aster, Ti West, Nia DaCosta, Prano Bailey-Bond, Julia Ducournau, Remi Weekes to name just a few, Mr Peele is carefully drawing his own patterns with the long-lived blood of the genre and Nope is just his latest artistic addition…
After a sudden tragedy, brother/sister duo, OJ and Emerald Haywood (Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer) are left to run the family ranch supplying trained horses for Hollywood productions. When it becomes increasingly apparent that something rather jaw-dropping is circling the skies above the ranch and the surrounding desert, the siblings, along with Angel Torres (a tech salesman played by Brandon Perea) and a grizzled cinematographer Antlers Holst (Michael Wincott), become determined to document these mysterious sightings for monetary gain. To keep the ranch afloat OJ has been selling horses to former child actor Ricky “Jupe” Park (Steven Yeun) who is also attempting to profit off of the spectacle in the sky with a show in his Western themed amusement park…
This is the kind of movie that warrants a second viewing, I myself am still trying to weave together exactly what it is trying to say. It asks the sort of questions that have you itching to talk about it with someone, ANYONE… The cinematography is equal parts chilling and enchanting, certain shots will make you gasp and clutch your chair with terror, using both darkness and the blistering sun of a California desert day. Other shots will provide a sort of quiet wonderment as Peele and cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema take us galloping towards a spectacular conclusion.
In a film that seemingly defies genre, Peele gives us a Western sci-fi with dashes of horror built by delicious levels of tension. Particular mention must go to the scenes where we discover Jupe’s past as a star on the ill-fated sitcom Gordy’s Home, cancelled after his chimpanzee co-star suddenly flips out and commits a truly shocking massacre. This scene is a masterclass in showcasing just enough to hint at brutality, without pushing it too far. In fact, Peele’s clever tiptoeing around overt gore is what makes the more graphic parts of his work so impactful. It can be so much more horrific to hint at what is happening rather than to actually use visual splatter gore frequently. Jordan Peele already provides us with enough to handle as we hide under the table with a stricken young Jupe watching the exploited chimp finally snap… Cinematic perfection in a couple of well-placed flashbacks.
Another Peele technique that can be observed in all three of his movies, is his timely use of comedy. Peele has struck gold here on his third outing, with the juxtaposition of pairing the solemn and stoic OJ alongside his enigmatic younger sis Emerald… Keke really bursts off of the screen in this role and she’s just a joy to watch alongside the more quietly urgent performance of the inimitable Daniel Kaluuya. With the addition of Brandon Perea’s annoyingly persistent, yet endearingly attached tech salesman, constantly showing up to help with the cameras purchased to capture the surreal sightings, Peele has created characters you truly care about. These are characters that you’re rooting for despite their initial dodgy plans to capitalise off of something so risky and world-changing. Jupe’s character is worth mentioning too, with Steven Yeun giving a powerfully sad performance to teach one of the film’s central lessons. I’m not going to mention specific allegories and story morals in this review because I think it’s deeply important for you to make up your own minds and read/watch theories after witnessing this complex and yet simple story unfold. All I will say is that the bible verse that precedes the opening scenes: “”I will pelt you with filth, I will treat you with contempt and make you a spectacle.” This, this is key to understanding, specifically the word spectacle.
Honestly my brain is still unravelling after this viewing experience. I can think of a handful of movies that have impacted me with their subversive refusal to be quite like anything I’ve ever seen before and Nope definitely joins this little list. I’m looking forward to seeing it again to pick up on details that I might have missed due to my jaw dropping to the floor on my initial viewing. Long may Jordan Peele reign as the king of making us NOPE in fear, but keeping our butts firmly superglued to the cinema seats as we await whatever spectacle he has in store for us next. We could all learn something from this movie, actually come to think of it, in watching are we complicit in the very thing that this movie is trying to warn us against!? See what I mean, Mr Peele has done it again.
Have you had the chance to see Nope yet? Is it Peele’s best work? Let us know what you think in the comments below!
A double murder on the banks of the Thames draws a young woman into a millennia-old conspiracy that threatens to destroy us all.