“Nope” stars Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun, Brandon Perea, Michael Wincott, Wrenn Schmidt, and Keith David. Released on July 22, 2022, the film has a group of residents witnessing a mysterious presence in their isolated hometown.
The film is written and directed by Jordan Peele, who also directed “Get Out” and “Us”. It’s no surprise that whenever something weird lurks in the sky, the only thing that comes to our minds is one simple word: no. But it is a surprise that a well-known comedian like Jordan Peele can tell pretty compelling scary stories. No one has expected Peele to be a household name outside of his Key & Peele skits regarding his approach to the horror genre. However, he managed to get the last laugh, thanks to the success of his directorial debut, “Get Out”. His mixture of old-fashioned scares and social commentary helped propel Peele into the horror winner’s circle as he breathed new life into the genre’s formulaic storytelling. This weekend sees the comedian/filmmaker looking for a third straight win with a movie that deals with an abnormal presence living among the clouds. You read that right, folks. Jordan Peele is heading into extraterrestrial territory, as we all saw in its recent trailer. Thanks for spoiling the surprise, Hollywood. Despite that tiny nitpick, I was very excited about Peele’s latest outing mainly due to its mysterious concept and my appreciation for alien-related movies. Now that it’s finally out, was it creepily fascinating enough to make audiences say “yes”? Let’s find out.
The story follows OJ (Kaluuya) and Emerald Haywood (Palmer), two siblings who live on a ranch in a small, lesser-known California town. One day, a series of random objects mysteriously fell from the sky, killing their father, Otis (David), the owner of the Haywood Hollywood horse ranch. The siblings discover that the source of the falling objects came from a peculiar presence hiding in the clouds, later identified as an alien spacecraft. With the help of tech salesman Angel Torres (Perea) and documentarian Antlers Holst (Wincott), OJ and Em attempt to capture video evidence of an unidentified flying object and show it to the world. Unfortunately, as their mission progresses, the town gets closer and closer to destruction.
Peele’s filmmaking strength resides in his mixture of horror storytelling and social critiques of society. “Get Out” disguised its creepy Meet the Parents-inspired plot as a reflection on racism and how it negatively affects black people, especially slavery. “Us” was a full-on horror roller coaster that pitted an ordinary family against their evil doppelgängers and represented American privilege, as told by Peele. This balance was why I enjoyed these two movies more than I expected, with “Us” being one of my favorite modern horror films of the 2010s.
“Nope” has Jordan Peele taking on the challenge of making a mid-budget science fiction scare-fest while maintaining the filmmaking mindset that made him a household name. However, instead of having a deranged white family or even clones as the adversaries, Peele decided to use aliens to give his audiences goosebumps. This is a bit beyond his comfort zone compared to his previous works, and one bad mistake could damage his reputation as a horror artist. Fortunately for me, Peele was able to make it work. While it might not leave a lasting impact like “Get Out” and “Us”, the movie serves as a clever and entertaining wake-up call to the alien encounter scenario.
The film does feature a basic premise of OJ and Emerald proving the existence of an abnormal life form. However, the plot offers a bit more than this wild goose chase. This is another movie that represents the monetization of spectacle. It asks us how far we’re willing to go to manipulate the spectacle’s hype, especially when it’s something that could be dangerous. It’s true that humanity wants to see something unique and out of the ordinary, but is it worth risking our lives to get our wish granted? Not only did Jordan Peele manage to portray this theme effectively, but he also balanced it with the uncertainty and fear of the unknown. His direction for “Nope” could be compared to Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece “Jaws”, which relies purely on suspense and terror instead of jump scares and excessive gore. Additionally, they both show brief instances of the monster until their thrilling finales, where they finally reveal themselves.
Jordan Peele has once again proven himself to be a talented director due to his ability to provide unnerving tension and balance it with the spectacle. Considering that it cost around $68 million to make, you would think Peele would go all out with the visuals, but that’s not the case. Instead, he puts that budget to good use by providing some of the best visual effects I’ve seen and combining them with the film’s realistic nature. Well, except for the monkey, which looked a bit rough. Nevertheless, his impressive filmmaking skills shown in “Nope” show that Peele may be ready to take on more mid-budget blockbusters like this in the future.
The movie features a strong cast of actors that are unsurprisingly delightful in their respective roles. “Nope” marks the latest collaboration between Peele and Daniel Kaluuya, following “Get Out”, which is understandable because Kaluuya was great in that film. His performance in “Nope” is no different, as he suitably manifests the weariness of OJ’s soft-spoken personality. Keke Palmer continues her successful year with an irresistibly charming and enthralling performance as Emerald. Steven Yeun and Brandon Perea were also good in their roles as Ricky Park and Angel Torres, respectively.
In addition to the visual effects, the film has some decent sound mixing, especially for the UFO noises. It’s important to know that a great monster has to have sounds that send chills down people’s spines. “Nope” has the UFO emitting a noise that perfectly fits that description. The sounds of the victims inside the mysterious spacecraft are enough to give me goosebumps. What makes these aspects even better is the musical score by Michael Abels, who reunited with Peele for the third time. Abels’ ominously brilliant music easily reflects the tone it’s going for: mysterious, unsettling, and intense. I would even say that I loved the music in “Nope” as much as his score in “Get Out”. They’re both creepy in the best way.
As for its flaws, I must admit that the movie ran a bit longer than it should. “Nope” is Peele’s longest film to date, clocking in at over two hours. The pacing and Peele’s direction were able to keep things moving, but they don’t change the fact that it overstayed its welcome by a few minutes. Additionally, its narrative took a bit of a nosedive during a couple of scenes compared to the filmmaker’s previous projects. Peele’s screenplay has its ambition, along with some decent humor. However, regarding the storytelling and characters, the thematic impact in “Nope” wasn’t as awe-inspiring as witnessing an actual UFO.
Overall, “Nope” has enough chills and wonder in its story and visuals to make me say “yes”. However, it’s far from a horror masterpiece, as its runtime and a couple of narrative shortcomings prevented it from reaching the same heights as Peele’s other works. Despite that, the movie is a creepily engaging and clever take on humanity’s close encounter that offers the right amount of Spielbergian magic and Peele’s unnerving suspense. From its entertaining cast to the stellar visuals, “Nope” is an old-fashioned summer horror blockbuster that’s out of this world.
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