In Nope, OJ and Emerald Haywood (Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer) run a ranch that wrangles and trains horses for the film industry. When OJ sees what could only be a flying saucer in the clouds, he and Em become determined to capture irrefutable video evidence of extraterrestrials with the help of tech wiz and conspiracy theorist Angel (Brandon Perea) and veteran Hollywood cinematographer Antlers Holst (Michael Wincott). But it looks like the threat might be greater than expected, and the staff and patrons of a local theme park run by former child star Ricky Park (Steven Yuen) might be in grave danger.
Nope is Jordan Peele’s third feature, following the modern masterpiece Get Out and the career-defining Lupita Nyong’o vehicle Us. Both of those films offered exceptional horror storytelling alongside acidic social commentary. Nope continues this tradition on a slightly larger scale, and in my opinion, it’s a resounding success! Peele continues to prove his genre acumen as he experiments with different topics and themes in horror. This time around, the threat isn’t our fellow man, but something entirely unknown. In fact, it’s been a while since I’ve seen a movie about aliens in which the appearance of the saucer in the clouds was actually pretty frightening. It delivers a sense of dread that’s unfortunately scarce in stories about UFOs. Our first glimpse of said saucer is fleeting, as is probably the best route to take when building this kind of suspense. It really is the sort of thing that one could reasonably chock up to a trick of the light in real life, especially the way it’s perfectly hidden by the clouds. I was reminded a little bit of Predator in that particular moment. While a lot of people have been comparing the film to Close Encounters of the Third Kind, I could definitely see some shades of Jaws and/or Duel in there, too. I know some people have complained about the movie’s overall pacing, but sequences like these elevate it to the point where I completely couldn’t care less about the few moments in which it drags a little.
This is a stellar cast (pun intended). Kaluuya and Palmer play polar opposite siblings, him being more moody and introverted, her being spunky and outgoing. They have a great dynamic, and I really enjoyed their characters. They bring a lot of heart and likability to what could easily have been a very cold story. Steven Yuen is probably the most fascinating character, as a particularly colorful story from his past is repeatedly referenced throughout the film. I would actually love to know more about him, because his backstory could easily have been a whole movie in and of itself. This is actually Brandon Perea’s first big movie. His real claim to fame before this was the Netflix series The OA (which I have yet to see), but I can see him getting a lot more big screen work after this, because he’s a lot of fun, despite being the type of character who could easily have ended up being incredibly grating. Michael Wincott is just f*cking awesome in this flick. He exudes a coolness that adds to the character’s sense of mystique and authority. His is another character I wouldn’t have minded seeing more from. There’s also a cameo from the legendary Keith David as OJ and Emerald’s father at the beginning, and one can never have enough Keith David.
While Get Out commented on race relations, and Us focused on class divide, Nope’s sociopolitical angle is dealing with the worship of spectacle, especially when it’s at the expense of safety/ethics. The human obsession with being entertained can unfortunately lead us to disregard the well-being of ourselves and others, and Nope is about the worst-case scenario. There’s also some nice messaging about respecting nature, which is further cemented the more we learn about Park’s traumatic past. While the commentary isn’t nearly as heavily emphasized in this movie as it was in Peele’s previous two films, he still leaves the viewer with plenty to ponder during, and after, the movie.
Jordan Peele triumphs yet again with this sci-fi chiller. Nope boasts exciting action, fun and memorable characters, and genuine suspense. While it’s social critiques aren’t nearly as prominent or scathing as his previous films, the larger scope and entertaining cast help ensure that Peele isn’t losing steam any time soon.
About the author
I’m an actor and director of stage and screen. But I also dabble in standup, and on this site, horror movie criticism. I’m just a guy who loves horror movies, and I like to share that love with the world.
Very well written. Keep up the good work!
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