Move Over, Marvel. There’s a New Summer Blockbuster in Town: Jordan Peele’s “Nope”
If the first trailer for Jordan Peele’s Nope piqued your curiosity with its foreboding tone and vague details, then you were probably bummed out by the final trailer, which seemed to give everything away. You’ll be pleased to know that despite its revealing final trailer, Nope still has a handful of surprises to offer. While it's not quite as intense or chilling as Peele’s first two feature films, Get Out (2017) and Us (2019), Nope is a well-developed, well-rounded, and well-crafted flick that is sure to delight crowds at the theater. It’s filled with all the thrills and chills of a summer box-office hit, bringing together the best of comedy, sci-fi, and horror. And, of course, every shot is accented by Peele’s penchant for the disturbing. As the talented writer and director proved with his first two films, Peele has more than a few tricks up his sleeves when it comes to plot twists, uncanny visuals, and bizarre narratives. Peele has not only joined the ranks of 21st century auteurs - he’s also leading the charge.
Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) stars as OJ Haywood, a horse trainer who’s struggling to keep up his family’s business after the unexpected death of his father. Keke Palmer (Hustlers) co-stars as his sister, Emerald Haywood. The leading actor and actress make the perfect pair, establishing a believable and heartfelt brother/sister relationship that supplies the emotional drama for the film. Kaluuya brings subtle, understated humor to the table, delivering some of the most laugh-out-loud lines of the flick while maintaining a cool demeanor. Palmer, on the other hand, is direct, blunt, energetic, and full of life, bringing out a different side of Peele’s humor. The two leads play off each other with ease, making Nope fun and entertaining. They’re joined by Steven Yeun (Minari), who plays a former child actor turned theme park owner named Ricky “Jupe” Park. Ricky is interested in buying some of OJ and Emerald’s horses for his Western-themed roadside attraction – and with business in shambles over at Haywood Hollywood Horses, OJ and Emerald don’t have much of a choice.
However, when strange things start happening on the ranch, the Haywoods realize that they’re facing a problem much bigger than finances. One night, OJ sees something in the sky. Something big. Something unusual. The next morning, he and Emerald head over to a tech shop to stock up on security cameras so they can try to catch the unidentified aerial phenomenon on camera. There, they meet Angel (Brandon Perea), a down-on-his-luck tech store clerk who’s nursing a broken heart. Although his character is a heavy-handed third wheel in terms of narrative, Perea definitely brings his own comedic talents to the table. The group begins making a plan for how they’ll film the strange flying object - but they have no idea what they’re in for.
Nope doesn’t fit into any existing category or genre. The most accurate way to classify it is to call it a Jordan Peele film. It’s marked by his creativity, his love for film (filmmaking and film history play an important role in the plot), and his comedic background. In fact, his humor is much more apparent in Nope than in Get Out and Us. Even during the most intense and scary scenes, Peele manages to squeeze in a joke or two, delivered by Kaluuya and Palmer with perfect comedic timing. Instead of restricting the cast to one mood or tone, Peele balances out the film with a little bit of everything. In addition to comedy and horror, there are also Western and sci-fi elements at play. Granted, this might disappoint viewers who are specifically looking forward to a horror film. While there’s tension throughout the movie, it takes a while for things to actually get scary. If you’re patient enough to wait for the horror, however, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what Peele does with the plot.
By combining stylistic elements from multiple genres, Peele creates a wildly imaginative visual design with unforgettable images that will disturb, haunt, and intrigue you. No filmmaker can completely escape the influence of those who came before, but the visual design of Nope is undeniably unique. There are details that will remind you of movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and Arrival (2016), but when it comes to big-picture design, Nope is truly a product of Peele’s imagination. By putting his own twist on traditional sci-fi imagery, Peele subverts our expectations for both the horror and sci-fi genres. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, Peele takes things in a slightly different direction. While the visuals aren’t 100% cohesive, they are engaging and effective. Much like in Us, Peele sets the mood with eerie and uncanny images rather than jump-scares. Whether it’s an object that’s ever so slightly out of place or a person or animal that’s moving in a way they shouldn’t, there’s always something that’s just “off” enough to put us on edge.
If there’s any apparent weakness in Nope, it’s the ending, which unravels in a drawn-out sequence that continues to get weirder. Parts of the ending could have been cut, but Peele eventually finds a cheeky stopping point that puts a solid punctuation mark on the film. Nope is entertaining, thrilling, funny, and surprising, and it will leave everyone wondering what Peele will do next.
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"Our embodied spectator, possibly perverse in her fantasies and diverse in her experience, possesses agency...finally, she must now be held accountable for it."