Jordan Peele may not have a huge directing resume, yet his stamp on horror is so profound, that whenever his name is attached to a new film, the question one asks is “What is he doing next?” Peele made it big with his directorial debut Get Out, which added racial commentary to its horror setting. While his second feature, Us, used the same type of commentary to tackle class. His latest feature, Nope, doesn’t seem as commentary-focused as his previous films, though it has something to say. Instead, it makes for a spectacle that has to be seen to be believed. Nope has the makings of a science-fiction epic akin to a Steven Spielberg film with the suspense of a horror film. However you want to describe it, Peele sure has a knack of conceiving pure tension through bits of quiet and lonesome outings, only matched by his film-making prowess. The camera, being our guide, instills feelings that something may be out there lurking, or making us feel trapped in a really uncomfortable situation. I would say that with each film, Peele proves to be as competent of a horror director as John Carpenter or Mike Flanagan.
Nope is mainly about two horse ranchers working in the film industry; OJ (Daniel Kaluuya), and Emerald Haywood (Keke Palmer) a brother-and-sister duo who become the witnesses of an extraterrestrial force that causes unusual activity on the ranch they inherited from their father (Keith David), as well as an amusement park run by Ricky “Jupe” Park, a former child actor with a tragic backstory, whether it be turning animals crazy, or cutting power. Where did it come from? What does it want? Nobody knows, but the Haywoods seem to want to capture this spectacle and make a profit off its existence. With the right crew, including a tech salesman named Angel Torres (Brandon Perea) and a cinematographer named Antlers Holst (Michael Wincott), they set out to expose the phenomenon.
A lot of what Nope consists of is intrigue and spectacle, making everything seem simplistic in its approach. Yet through its extremely suspenseful moments, Peele uses the mystery to his advantage. Much like his previous films, Nope is not a film that demands answers as to what everything is, or why these things happen. Instead, it asks the audience to make something of it, all while having them come along for the ride. Nope may not have the same ideas that made Get Out and Us horror mainstays, but as a science-fiction thriller, it works at keeping you on the edge, while also making you laugh at the many times it gets name-dropped (it happens a lot in this movie).
As OJ, Kaluuya provides a bit of quiet sadness as a man who feels as if he has lost everything while not ready to come out of his shell, while Palmer is the standout with her expressive, fast-talking energy. Both of these contrasts in personality seem to compliment each other, helping you care for them during the commotion.
I feel that it is really hard to talk about Nope with where it takes its premise. With what I could expect from it, I was just as surprised with how it went down. But for how Nope handled it, I would say its effort is admirable. Don’t expect too much, just come in and see for yourself what Peele has brought to the table.