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Review: Nope

July 22, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

Nope, the third film written and directed by Jordan Peele, completes the trifecta of modern genre movies that he started with Get Out and Us, and continues his winning streak as a filmmaker.

While it’s worth addressing up front that Nope doesn’t have the same type of social commentary as Get Out or even Us (though there are still some deeper layers here that I’ll get to later on), that’s also not really what Peele is going for here.

This is simply a really entertaining and expertly crafted mix of summer blockbuster and sci-fi spectacle that pays tribute to the king of them, Steven Spielberg. Peele’s latest is blockbuster filmmaking in its purest form, a massive movie that is made to be seen on the big screen with its immersive visuals and sound design.

The film takes place on a ranch in California that rents out horses for Hollywood productions. When their father (Keith David, in what is basically a cameo role) dies in a freak accident involving bits of metal falling from the sky, siblings OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald Haywood (Keke Palmer) are left to run the ranch. With business struggling, OJ has started selling off the horses to Ricky “Jupe” Park (Steven Yeun), a former child star who runs a local amusement park called Jupiter’s Claim.

But the brother and sister soon realize that there’s something in the skies above their ranch, which they become obsessed with capturing on video. Enter Angel Torres (Brandon Perea), a salesman at the local electronics store who helps them install high tech security cameras on the property, and, well, stuff starts to happen. This is Peele doing his version of a UFO monster movie, and it’s as exciting and interesting as it sounds.

The first act is all Spielbergian buildup, with teases and hints at what’s to come. This allows Peele to show off his expertise at establishing tone and building tension. The last act delivers awesome payoff, with one of the most ridiculously entertaining sequences of the year. This is, in many ways, Peele’s most ambitious film yet, at least in terms of scope. Working with cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema, the film looks incredible, especially in IMAX. It was shot using IMAX film cameras, and features footage designed for the format that allows us to gaze up at the screen as the image stretches out from top to bottom.

Peele’s screenplay introduces a lot of different ideas and plays around with structure in some interesting ways, keeping us engaged with a story that we never really know where it is going. Early on, he sets up an intriguing subplot with flashbacks to a violent incident involving a chimp on a TV set, which builds to a chilling sequence that doubles as one of the film’s most intense and genuinely unsettling moments, but leaves us scratching our heads as to how exactly it ties back into the main plot (though the theme of animals being exploited for entertainment offers a key). These seeming “loose ends” will prove to be among the most divisive aspects of Nope, but they also add to the overall mysterious feel of it.

While Nope is predominantly a sci-fi film with some horror overtones, the other, perhaps more surprising genre Peele plays around with here are classic Westerns. It’s a genre that was historically unforgiving to people of colour, and Peele subtly works in some deeper themes about the history of cinema and exploitation in the film industry. OJ and Emerald claim to be descendants of the Black jockey seen riding a horse in the first ever collection of moving images shot by Eadweard Muybridge in 1878, though the man in the real two-second clip remains unidentified. The film also serves as a tribute to moviemaking, and the obsessive art of trying to get that one perfect shot.

Palmer’s charisma helps carry the film, while Kaluuya continues to impress with another brooding performance. Michael Wincott also delivers compelling supporting work as a cinematographer who is very committed to his craft. It’s topped off with a Western-inspired score by composer Michael Abels that adds another layer to Nope. This is Peele confidently taking us on a cinematic ride, delivering a bold, ambitious, and at times genuinely beguiling film that leaves us with some questions but keeps us thoroughly satisfied and entertained by the massive spectacle of it all.

Nope is now playing exclusively in theatres.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 31, 2022 3:40 am

    Really looking forward to this. Great review

    Like

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