Nope review

Jordan Peele doesn’t so much write and direct movies as he does create a kaleidoscope of cinematic experiences with multiple layers beneath the surface.

With his latest film, Nope, Peele wipes out any lingering doubts that he might’ve gotten lucky with his landmark 2017 debut effort, Get Out. Or the notion that lightning simply struck twice with the haunting 2019 thriller, Us.

If anything, Nope confirms that Peele is the modern-day equivalent to Alfred Hitchcock, a filmmaker capable of toying with audiences’ emotions with remarkable ease.

One moment, Peele elicits hearty laughter as characters react in realistic, authentic manner to unexpected circumstances. The next, Peele leaves us clinched in our seats fully on guard. What does arrive is far more nerve-wracking and unnerving.

There’s that remarkable element of all of Peele’s films, perhaps best exemplified in Nope, where he refuses to allow it to be too easily defined. Nope is equal parts black Western, an edgy sci-fi thriller and family legacy drama. And that doesn’t include the killer chimpanzee.

nope review - jupe

Like Get Out and Us, Peele offers up plenty of material for thought pieces and YouTube video essays. For those who don’t want to scour every scene for some subtle message or Easter Egg, Nope is just as enjoyable a hybrid film with its straightforward plot.

Daniel Kaluuya reunites with Peele following his starring role in Get Out. I like the idea of Kaluuya and Peele continuing to collaborate to be the next generation DiCaprio and Scorsese. Especially if they keep bringing out the best of each other.

 

This time, Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah) plays OJ Haywood, a horse trainer carrying on the family legacy of providing horses for Hollywood productions.

His father, Otis (Keith David, Stargirl), is a hard-driving man, but instilled a great sense of pride in the work to his son. That’s not the case with OJ’s free-spirited sister, Emerald (Keke Palmer, Lightyear), who considers the family business her side hustle.

Palmer is typically relegated to fun charismatic supporting roles. She always makes the most of limited screen time, but this is a long overdue starring role. Palmer shows exactly why she should be fronting more projects thanks to her captivating presence.

nope review - oj, emerald and angel

After an inexplainable phenomena, OJ and Emerald are convinced there’s some paranormal activity occurring on the family property. If they can capture it on video, they might be able to turn around the family’s dismal financial outlook. With the help of local tech whiz Angel (Brandon Perea, who shows a knack for subtle comedy), the siblings feel ready to ready to get “the Oprah shot” and get Instafamous.

Maybe they can use one of their Hollywood connections and get acclaimed cinematographer Antlers Hoist (Michael Wincott, 24: Live Another Day). Hoist is always searching for that impossible shot. Between David and Wincott, Peele has two of the great modern era voices in the same film.

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Naturally, their plans don’t go quite as smoothly. The mysterious phenomena isn’t exactly cooperating with being filmed despite their best efforts. OJ begins to wonder if this activity has something to do with the tourist attraction run by former child star, Ricky ‘Jupe’ Park (Steven Yeun, The Walking Dead). Jupe gets intentionally vague when asked about his TV past.

While marketing and trailers suggest Yeun is the third lead, he’s more of a supporting presence who makes all of his scenes meaningful. Yeun is a likable actor, and this is another savvy role in cultivating an eclectic cinematic portfolio.

nope review - decoy horse

Peele has already established he’s got impeccable thriller instincts. He’s more into allowing the audience’s imagination run wild rather than showing it all on screen for them. Even the fake out jump scares work thanks to Peele’s deliberate setup.

A hallmark of Peele’s films has been the stark imagery. Whether a teacup in Get Out or scissors in Us. There are some strong visuals in Nope. Cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema (Dunkirk) frames them in mesmerizing fashion. And it’s absolutely not a coincidence that OJ is riding along a black bronco.

nope review - oj riding lucky

For his skills as a director, Peele’s script is just as sharp. Naturally, there’s obvious moments to incorporate the title yet Peele resists the urge to overdo it. The story comes together just fine without any obvious plot holes. The dialogue makes the characters come across as well-lived long before our encounter with them on screen.

Like Peele’s previous efforts, Nope will likely prove just as or possibly more enjoyable upon repeated viewings. Fortunately, this is a film that holds up to a prolonged gaze and exploration as it marks arguably the last can’t miss film of the summer season.

Rating: 10 out of 10

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

Check out Get Out and Us on Blu-Ray 4K on Amazon.

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