After two box office hits, Jordan Peele is finally back. He is one of the few directors in Hollywood whose name brings a certain level of respect. Like Robert Eggers or Ari Aster, you are already going to see his film before you know what it’s about. Nevertheless, there are two things you expect from a Peele film – 1. A tense and gripping horror and 2. A strong and clever social commentary. With so few films under his belt, it is truly an accomplishment he has already achieved this reputation. But does Nope follow this path? Does it live up to the hype of two previous smash hits?
From the beginning to the end of this film, I was hooked. There was never a dull moment. In a 2hr and 15-minute run time this is an incredible accomplishment and a perfect representation of how good a writer and director Jordan Peele is. Butnot everything worked. Nope has some parts I absolutely loved and moments that just didn’t work for me.
I was never shocked with this film. Sure, there was some slight twists, but nothing really surprised me. I think this is a real shame considering how many incredible and clever twists there were in Get Out and Us. Maybe it’s due to trailers showing way too much (I avoided them as much as I could) but I knew where the story was going before I even saw it.
As a result, this affected the ending of the film for me. Obviously, I won’t spoil it but it just wasn’t satisfying. I didn’t feel the entire story was completed and it just left me wanting another twist in the plot or to see more from these characters.
Jordan Peele is a master at creating tense horror sequences. In every movie he has made, he has a couple of scenes that make you want to look as far away as possible. Nope is no different. It’s so refreshing to have the UFO as this horrible force of nature because as an audience, we are so used to looking down or around us. Instead, Peele introduces this concept of being afraid of what’s coming from above that hasn’t really been touched upon since the 80s.
There are also some other sequences that I honestly found even scarier (no spoilers). They feel so seamless and blend into the story perfectly. Unlike most horrors, it never feels like Peele went “hey we need another horror scene here.” Also, how Jordan and his cinematographer – Hoyte van Hoytema – move the camera is beautiful. They know exactly what to do to make sure you are permanently “shitting it.”
At no point in this movie did I laugh out loud. That wouldn’t be a problem if it didn’t feel like Peele had written in some purposeful jokes. These actors are all completely capable of being funny it’s just the movie doesn’t really commit to these comedic scenes very well. Sure, they might be worthy of a slight chuckle but when it’s Jordan Peele writing – one of the funniest comedians in Hollywood- you want to see some lines that make you laugh out loud.
Daniel Kaluuya was excellent in this film. I really believed this character and all the choices he made completely fit his backstory. How Daniel mumbles and is so socially awkward he can’t even talk to others perfectly fits a man who has known farming and nothing more. For Keke Palmer, I really had to settle into her performance, but once I did, I loved it. I like how she starts off as this over top character and as the film moves forward, she becomes more grounded and realistic. Now Steven Yeun I also liked, I just don’t think he was given as much screen time as the others. But when he was on screen, he completely solid this capitalistic money-grubbing man. Apart from Brandon Perea and Michael Wincott (both were solid but didn’t stand out) that is basically the whole cast.
I don’t ever really talk about sound design because most movies are samey but holy fuck the sound in Nope is incredible. Johnnie Burn does an amazing job at making you understand exactly when the UFO is about to arrive. In an interview, he mentions how the barrel in Jaws shows you when the shark is coming. For Nope, they used wind whistling to represent the alien. Simple choices like this add a whole new level of suspense. It completely immerses you in the situation and makes you that much more terrified.
Ultimately, Nope doesn’t seek to offers answers but instead make you ask questions. Like Kubrick’s style of filmmaking, Peele wants you to question the world around you. Whether this be the themes of the entertainment industry, animal abuse or capitalism, I think Jordan has a specific goal of making the audience challenge their views. While these messages are buried deep deep below the surface, I love that he is not beating the audiences’ head about what the film is truly about. It’s subtle and it’s smart. On top of this, he brings a completely new structure to this film that worked. It was a simple signposting, but it kept me engaged and focused.
Should you see this movie?
Nope is a great movie with tense horror and well written heartfelt moments that kept me hooked from the beginning. While specific elements didn’t work for me – like the comedy and predictability of the plot – it is still worthy of your time. You must see it in cinemas for its incredible sound design and beautiful cinematography. Definitely go see this film.
(It’s not his best movie…)