Jordan Peele is one of the most defining and original voices in the film industry at the moment, having delivered two of the most successful and truly unique horror films of the last ten years with Get Out and Us. However, with his latest film Nope, Peele finally gets the blockbuster-level budget he sorely deserves and it’s every bit as ambitious and mesmerizing as you’d expect it to be. From beginning to end, Nope is a pure spectacle – and Jordan Peele knows it, as he has crafted a large-scale spectacle that is a deep-dive into the very idea of spectacles. It’s a horror film about how we as a society spectate and immortalize the most awful of tragedies? Why do we do this? Is there a way to stop this cycle, or are we doomed to romanticize and entertain the idea of torture and violence forever? These are big, bold questions but Peele has crafted a film that is as equally big and bold and fully capable of tackling them.
Nope follows famous Hollywood horse-wranglers OJ Haywood Jr (Daniel Kaluuya) and his sister Emerald (Keke Palmer) as they try to keep their family business afloat after the abrupt and mysterious death of their father. Late one night, the two siblings have a strange encounter with what seems to be a UFO – and over the course of the next week or so, the evidence becomes more damning; from clouds not moving over their house, power outages, and objects falling from the sky from what seems to be a genuine alien spaceship. Instead of panicking or running, the two decide to profit off of it and attempt to document this UFO and be the first people to ever document aliens in high-quality; their theory? High production value and clarity = an even higher payday.
This opens up a giant sandbox for Jordan Peele and co. to play within when it comes to the massive ambition at hand here, with a large array of characters and performances that add so much to the personality and charm of the film. One huge stand-out from the supporting case is that of Angel (Brandon Perea), an eager employee of a nearby tech store who desperately wants to help the Haywood’s on their quest. Perea adds so much comedic value and charm in every scene he’s in. It’s also great to see Steven Yeun in such a large role, as he plays Ricky ‘Jupe’ Park – a child-actor-turned-entrepreneur who now runs a Western themed carnival that’s currently looking for a new big attraction. Yeun is absolutely mesmerizing here, in a super energetic and powerful performance that holds a lot of weight to the core themes of the film.
However, it’s really the performances from Keke Palmer and Daniel Kaluuya that make Nope as good as it is; aside from the Jordan Peele of it all, of course. In each and every frame they’re in, Palmer and Kaluuya have such excellent chemistry as siblings and give deeply entertaining, heartfelt, and charismatic performances individually that you can’t help but immediately root for them on their cause to document this alien. So much of the heart of the film lies in the familial dynamic on display, and that’s what makes Nope standout among the rest – it genuinely feels like unlike anything else we’re getting nowadays in terms of character work and telling a genuinely original story.
Nope has more in common with something like Signs or Close Encounters of the Third Kind than it does something like War of the Worlds or Independence Day – it’s more of a slow-burn than an outright horror film or adventure film, just as every other film Peele has made feels genuinely like his own thing. I’m not sure where this ranks for me in comparison to the other two films he’s directed, but it feels like such a quintessential step for him as a filmmaker as he proves how much he can do with a large-scale and a huge budget – he completely nails the spectacle and blockbuster elements on display, but never loses sight of his singular voice behind the camera and his own original vision. Sure, there are moments where it feels akin to something Spielberg or Shyamalan would make – but it feels disingenuous to describe this as anything other than a Jordan Peele blockbuster. It feels like it’s entirely his own.
While there may be a few things to nitpick here and there, I truly have no issues with the film and found it to be a highly effective experience as well as extremely entertaining in equal-measure. It’s genuinely creepy, but also full of heart and nail-bitingly intense sequences. This truly feels like a once-in-a-generation type of directorial effort that will stand the test of time as a true American classic. Top to bottom, Nope is an absolute triumph, both as a blockbuster but as a piece of art. I adored it.
See it in IMAX if you can!