Director: Jordan Peele | 2h 10mins | Horror, Sci Fi
Two siblings running a ranch just outside of Hollywood suspect that something sinister is lurking above them. When they think they’re might be money involved, they try to capture evidence of it.
When Jordan Peele made Get Out his name instantly became synonymous with the modern Horror film, manipulating the genre tropes and moulding them into a powerful contemporary statement piece. It established him as one of Hollywood’s most exciting directors, and despite his name forever being attached with the 21st century Horror films, the possibilities really do seem endless with his creativity. In spite of this though, Nope still manages to baffle and beguile in the weirdest way possible.
In many ways Nope is Peele’s boldest film yet. Both Get Out and Us felt structured and tightly written, and while Nope never struggles to give off Peele’s powerful charm as a filmmaker, its dedication to exploring the visual side of storytelling is wholly unique. As OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) and his sister Emerald (Keke Palmer) spend the majority of the film’s second half gazing up at the sky and running for their life, the film tells you not to look at the mysterious figure above, while enticing you to do the opposite.
It’s an extremely visual film, and with that Peele stretches his directorial legs by paying homage to Spielberg using techniques that mirror Jaws and at times match them in quality. Nope achieves this with its slow, quietly intensifying build to its first half and although it sometimes feels as if the film is dragging its feet it really pays off with its ending.
Peele’s ideas on spectacle and viewership are matched with wondrous cinematography and while the human elements don’t always work, the film manages to be continually intriguing and a little bewildering.
The human elements of Nope come from OJ and his sister Emerald. OJ is stoic and quiet (much like a Western protagonist), while his sister is the polar opposite. After the death of their Father they try to reconnect through the family business and eventually the mystery flying above them. This dynamic gives off more humour than it does sentiment though, really unable to find levity even in its most tender moments between the two. It’s saved mostly by Kaluuya’s sheer presence as an actor, and a wildly charismatic turn as Emerald by Keke Palmer.
Throughout its chaptered story the film references a fictional tragedy that happened – a folktale in the Hollywood scene OJ and Emerald work in – about a sitcom monkey that ended up killing its tv show family while on set. The film isn’t always clear about the connection this has to the main narrative, aside from the inclusion of one of the survivors as a character, but Peele’s films are very often layered and take time to unravel with multiple viewings.
Nope may not feel as instantaneous in its quality like Get Out, but it’s arguably Peele’s finest shot film. His ideas on spectacle and viewership are matched with wondrous cinematography and while the human elements don’t always work, the film manages to be continually intriguing and a little bewildering.