FILM: Nope (2022, Jordan Peele)

Science-fiction/horror Nope is distributed by Universal. Siblings OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald Haywood (Keke Palmer) inherit a Californian horse ranch from their father Otis (Keith David) – a horse trainer who was a legend in the film industry. The siblings face challenges with keeping the long-term family business successful, but soon they face a bigger threat than they could have ever imagined. A UFO starts making brief and recurring appearances over their ranch, and they become determined to capture the unexplained phenomenon on film, but some of its appearances prove deadly as it sucks up people and objects alike.

PROS

  • Director/screenwriter Jordan Peele takes a slow-burn approach to the narrative, by primarily establishing and fleshing out the characters in the first Act, gradually increasing the sense of mystery and the feeling of a threat that surrounds the UFO, and not revealing the most unique and clever aspects of it (compared to other cinematic UFOs) until the final act. He also shows his deft hand for his craft by having clever false scares – a rarity in cinema.
  • Jordan Peele deftly blends the horror and science-fiction genres by coming up with a fresh take on the alien invasion sub-genre of horror, and also effortlessly interweaves nods to Westerns, film noirs and even Akira.
  • Jordan Peele sensitively explores cinema’s romanticism of the American frontier and the historical traumas associated with it, and provides a sobering comment on how historically minorities have suffered so that white producers can make new and successful content. Within this he also features a clever metaphor for how show business can eat you alive.
  • An excellent cast, the ultimate stand-outs being Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer – they have outstanding chemistry and their cool stoicism and intensely manic energy are a wonderful example of chalk-and-cheese to watch. Steven Yeun is the best in a strong supporting cast as he brings real gravitas to a traumatised former child star. And that is a key reason behind this being such an engaging film – the characters are grounded, well-realised and (in most cases) make smart decisions in the face of danger.
  • A visually clever and very well-executed film, with the UFO having a unique and surreal design that will stand out in memory, altogether excellent visual effects that are primarily practical, and highly vivid use of fake blood within some utterly haunting imagery.

CONS

  • There are a couple of scenes where Jordan Peele feels quite restrained, almost as though he wants to go for something more brutal but is unwilling to quite commit to doing so.
  • Despite Jordan Peele’s slow-burn approach, there are a couple of scenes which feel somewhat rushed and could have benefited from being longer and more fleshed out – including one where the long-term impacts of historic tragedy are touched upon.

VERDICT: 9/10

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