Nope (2022) Review!!

Synopsis – The residents of a lonely gulch in inland California bear witness to an uncanny and chilling discovery.

My Take – With just two directorial efforts, Get Out (2017) or Us (2019), under his belt actor comedian Jordan Peele has already cemented an enviable reputation as a filmmaker who takes an unique approach to his films, something that has helped him stand out from most of his contemporaries who seem to more focused on merely piggybacking off the success of nostalgia and trends or just basically giving into anything the studio executives are demanding to churn out nowadays.

At the same time, he has popularized the social thriller genre, in which traditional thriller and horror elements are used to deliver a fascinating commentary. But unlike others ones in the same vein, the social message in Peele‘s films do not overwhelm the stakes of the story. If the promos and the trailers of his latest had led one to believe that it was going to be another mind-numbing experience, well, one would not be far off.

A Spielberg style inspired blockbuster satire that isn’t framed as a typical horror yet mightily works with its horrifying and amusing moments that are sprinkled throughout its screenplay, all the while making a curious commentary on our obsession with spectacles. Though never as tight and gut-wrenching as his previous efforts, it sure his most ambitious film yet, merging the three worlds of mystery, horror, and sci-fi into a single layered film.

Sprawling, glorious, and breathtaking, but most importantly, holding the entertaining elements that we like to see, this is one exhilarating experience that should not be missed by any sci-fi or horror fans and demands to be seen on the big screen given its scale and theme.

The story follows Otis “OJ” Jr. (Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald “Em” Haywood (Keke Palmer), two siblings who inherit Haywood’s Hollywood Horses Ranch shortly after the strange untimely death of their father Otis Haywood Sr. (Keith David). The two struggle to keep the ranch in business due to their conflicting interests, with OJ hoping to continue his father’s legacy working on the farm and by selling of some of their horses to Ricky “Jupe” Park (Steven Yeun), a former child actor and owner/creator of the theme park called Jupiter’s Claim just to keep things running, while Em desires to become famous in Hollywood with her multiple talents.

However, their life takes a drastic turn when the siblings become aware of a presence in the sky, a saucer-shaped thing hiding in a non-moving cloud which they believe to be a UFO. Hoping to get to the bottom of this mystery, the siblings come up with a plan to capture video evidence of whatever it is and cash in on the opportunity. Enlisting the help of local tech salesman Angel Torres (Brandon Perea) and cameraman Antlers Holst (Michael Wincott). But when the extraterrestrial presence hovering over the sky turns its attention towards them, their curiosity shifts from the hypothetical money to the very real danger to their lives.

To put it bluntly, this is not the type of film that is easily accessible to just anyone. As mentioned above, writer and director Jordan Peele is the type of filmmaker who relies primarily on his own perspective of things, with little outside influence over what kind of story he is trying to tell. But his latest oozes style and suspense from its every fiber which makes it a terrific watch.

While there are plenty of nods to the classic science-fiction horror fare, HP Lovecraft, and even biblical myths, the film manages to be its own thing. Hidden deep within this film is a fascinating commentary about the hidden cycles of abuse and neglect in Hollywood, and the confronting truth of commercializing on disasters, risking everything for a spectacle, because it’s just what people do.

Even the confrontation with the alien force in the film serves as a reflection of mankind’s fixation with spectacles. An example of this is aspect being deeply intertwined with Jupe and Gordy’s story-line. A part which does not seem vital to the plot at first glance, at least. The whole scene parallels the alien behavior with predatory tendencies, being territorial, and not looking it in the eyes. And the irony of Jupe doing the same thing as an adult as he did as a child, dealing with a beast he couldn’t control once again resulting in disaster.

There is also a telling scene in which a biker, apparently from TMZ, who is about to be swallowed by the creature dubbed Jean Jacket, but all he is worried about is his camera and that someone should shoot all of it. It isn’t too different from all of us who take selfies while driving or at precarious tourist spots or how most passers-by film an accident or a mishap instead of intervening to help.

Another driving force in the film’s concept is the marginalization of black talent in film history. The Haywoods in the film are descendants of a fictional animal trainer who was the first person to appear in film but has long gone uncredited. It also helps that Hoyte Van Hoytema’s jaw-dropping cinematography matches director Peele’s mad vision. The film is gorgeously shot, especially the night sequences and the brute barrenness of the open, untamed Wild West.

Add to that the excellent visuals, and many crazy intense scenes on top of that. The final 30 minutes of the film were gripping, and the lack of unnecessary dialogue, and the extended moments of silence with a thumping, gripping soundtrack, amplified Peels‘ intense direction.

Performances wise, Daniel Kaluuya’s restrained turn is as impactful as ever, Keke Palmer is an absolute revelation bringing to life her character in such a magnetic and engaging way, and Brandon Perea delivers an exceptional and energetic performance. While Steven Yeun and Michael Wincott are pretty excellent in helping sell the weirdest elements of the film. However, in smaller roles, Keith David and Barbie Ferreira are wasted. On the whole, ‘Nope’ is a strange yet undeniably original thrilling experience that once again shows off Jordan Peele‘s skills as a filmmaker.

Directed – 

Starring – Brandon Perea, Keke Palmer, Daniel Kaluuya

Rated – R

Run Time – 130 minutes

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