Nope is the third film written and directed by Jordan Peele, and it stars Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, and Steven Yuen. In this science fiction/thriller/horror, sibling ranchers OJ (Kaluuya) and Emerald (Palmer) discover a mysterious flying object near their property and try to capture it on film.
In Nope, Peele is influenced by Steven Spielberg, who directed some of the best blockbuster spectacle films in the history of American cinema. There are traces of Jurassic Park in the tense staging of the film’s action sequences (and a little trick from the Coen Brothers’ No Country for Old Men), and in the wonder and ambition of normal people in the face of extraterrestrials, Peele is influenced by Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Though Spielberg is all over Nope’s DNA, there is a modern sensibility to the film’s thematic and metaphorical weight. In the protagonists’ mission to get the alien on film and a subplot involving a nearby theme park owner (Yuen), Peele is interrogating the commodification of our lives and of our trauma. I don’t think the metaphor fully comes together at the end, but seeing characters putting themselves at risk for the perfect shot or trivializing traumatic childhood memories in an SNL sketch is familiar territory for those who frequent risky Instagram shots and confessional YouTube videos.
But Nope isn’t reliant on audiences understanding the metaphor. Just as one could enjoy Get Out without knowing anything about race in America and could see the “Sunken Place” as a horror movie trope, not as a brilliant depiction of the subjugations of Black people in American culture, so could one enjoy Nope as a tense, brilliantly choreographed and shot thriller. The action sequences are gripping with panoramic cinematography by Hoyte Van Hoytema, and the performances are all fantastic.
For Peele, Nope is more than just a great movie; it is an artist continuing to grow and expand what he’s capable of.
Four out of five stars.