Writer/Director: Jordan Peele
Production: Universal Pictures, Dentsu, Monkeypaw Productions, The Government of Canada Income Tax Credit Program
Distributor: Universal Pictures International (UPI)
Platform: Theatrical Release (Reviewed)
Release Date: Out Now!
Jordan Peele’s newest feature film Nope is a captivating slow-burn of sci-fi/horror spectacle – and it’ll leave you debating the plot long after the climactic moments. In fact, if you haven’t seen Nope yet, I’d encourage you to stop reading this review now, as the less you know going in the better!
However, if you’re still here, then let me tell you more. Set in California, Nope focuses on the Haywood family of professional horse wranglers, who discover a mysterious entity has moved into the airspace over their ranch. Hidden in clouds but deadly when it emerges, brother and sister OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald (Keke Palmer) decide to get evidence on camera.
Details are pieced together by the characters in eerie, inevitable fashion. A plethora of imagery, settings, and shot styles show just enough to maintain the absorbing tension, without showing everything too early. The dialogue does this too; it isn’t constant, and many scenes let their visuals do the work. When characters do speak, there’s always a purposeful feel to their words, especially in retrospect. This even applies to the scattered moments of humour, which really worked throughout without breaking the atmosphere.
The characters are naturally our conduit for experiencing the unknown phenomenon at play, and the sibling leads are fantastic. Kaluuya embodies a stoicism and simmering determination, whilst Palmer radiates an outgoing nature and is initially less willing to set aside her life for this. How these stances develop and change is intriguing, and that human element subsequently made me care more about the sci-fi aspects. Outside of the siblings, it’s actually quite a small cast, but everyone plays their supporting role well.
Peele is known for his horror films Get Out and Us, but there’s less of that in Nope. The are certainly scary moments (especially in the second act), but they’re mixed in with sci-fi and thriller tones too. Certain sequences are in daylight, which reduces the terror through visibility – however, this is clearly a purposeful choice, and plays into the different ways you can perceive the messages and themes of Nope. Still, it did lead to the climax feeling less intense than the second act, so perhaps there was a slightly better balance to strike.
Daylight additionally has the effect of exposing the gorgeous cinematography of Nope; a combination of dusty vistas, sweeping shots, and real stunts (great horseback action here!) makes for a stunning film visually.
Nope is my first experience of a Jordan Peele film, and I was thoroughly riveted throughout; it left me reeling and considering my reading of the art I just experienced, and I love films that challenge the viewer in that way. Different people may have different takeaways from this film, and arguably no one can definitively say they have the right one! This also makes Nope suited to the big screen experience, as it demands your attention throughout. I really recommend seeing this at the cinema – it’s a thrilling and smartly-told film, which I give a resounding “Yep”!