Nope Movie Review


Universal Pictures

Reviewed for FilmFactual by Abe Friedtanzer

Director: Jordan Peele

Writer: Jordan Peele

Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun, Michael Wincott, Brandon Perea, Keith David

Screened at: DVD, LA, 12/2/22

Opens: July 22nd, 2022

In his first film, Get Out, Jordan Peele presented an alternately terrifying and humorous look at the way in which Black people in America can so easily go missing without anyone noticing. His second film, Us, featured a family who encountered their doppelgangers, whose main goal was to replace them. His third film, Nope, takes cues from the previous ones but goes in a distinctly new direction, once again featuring a family of Black protagonists who move through the world in a different way than most and are, as a result, able to perceive subtle and inexplicable changes occurring around them. 

Following the death of their father, Otis Haywood (Keith David), under mysterious circumstances, siblings OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald (Keke Palmer) keep up their family ranch, making money on the side by working on film sets with their horses. When they see what appears to be a UFO over their ranch, they become intent on capturing the phenomenon on camera to net extra cash to keep the ranch running. As they set up surveillance cameras all across their property, they learn more about the nature of what it is that is visiting them in the sky each night.

One of the signature elements of Peele’s films is that their storylines involve twists and turns that aren’t necessarily shocking or unpredictable, but instead reveal something about society in the process. It may be possible to garner the truth of what’s happening early on in this film, but there’s much more to it, especially as this science fiction concept could be applied to the real world in which we live today. While this film is stylistically and thematically different from his previous works, there are indeed connective threads that relate back to the ideas he has explored in his first two films.

Nope benefits from two very strong protagonists who both operate and act in distinctive ways. OJ is tired of the regressive casual racism he often experiences and approaches many situations with a negative attitude, not interested in being the bigger person and therefore not putting much of himself into it. Emerald, on the other hand, is chatty and gregarious, eager to make friends and to use her enthusiasm to enable her to achieve as much as possible. The two, as played by Peele’s Get Out  star Kaluuya and Palmer, are an intriguing pair, pursuing separate aims but effective together when they’re on the same page. 

Those who shy away from horror, like this reviewer, may not go out of their way to see Peele’s latest film based on the tone of his first two films, but Nope does represent a distancing from that genre. While there are a few jumps to be found, it’s more about the horrifying nature of what is happening. The film also opens with an eerie scene featuring a chimpanzee actor going crazy on set and harming his human costars, a foreboding warning about the nature of where the Haywood family lives and what else exists in that area.

The technical elements of Nope work to enhance the experience, creating suspense and manufacturing fear through camera movements and sound effects. The cinematography by seasoned sci-fi director of photography Hoyte Van Hoytema makes the ranch seem almost like an endless space and manages to build intrigue and fear as it pivots around to show different angles of what is happening. The sound effects are also key to this film, one that is best viewed without distractions and no source of escape to something safer and more comforting than this film’s complex and thought-provoking content, presented in a way only Peele could deliver.

130 minutes

Story – B+

Acting – B+

Technical – B+

Overall – B+

(from left) OJ Haywood (Daniel Kaluuya), Emerald Haywood (Keke Palmer) and Angel Torres (Brandon Perea) in Nope, written, produced and directed by Jordan Peele. Courtesy Universal Pictures

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