There’s few directors that ‘burst on to the scene’ like Jordan Peele did back in 2017 with the Oscar-winning horror/thriller/satire Get Out. In his first feature film, Peele tackled the racial divide in a way audiences never saw coming and has continued to surprise audiences in unexpected ways. Two years later Peele made Us (2019), while a competent and intriguing horror/thriller with similar themes and allegory, it didn’t quite reach the narrative tightness and unexpected brilliance of Get Out. Now the former funny-man turned horror-auteur presents audiences with his latest ‘spectacle’, Nope.
The question everyone will be asking is “is it as good as Get Out?”. Honestly, that might not be achievable based on how Peele seemed to ‘catch lightning in a bottle’ with his first feature, however with Nope Jordan Peele has brought an entertaining cinematic experience to the big screen that in terms of size, scope and filmmaking in general, surpasses the achievements of Get Out and Us, fully cementing him as one of cinema’s most interesting horror filmmakers.
Nope is a sci-fi,horror/thriller that tells the story of Hollywood horse trainers Emerald (Keke Palmer) and OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) who discover something not-of-planet-earth flying above their isolated desert ranch as they try to capture conclusive evidence of the UFO.
Nope is the perfect mash up of two of Steven Spielberg’s early films, Close Encounters of The Third Kind (1977) and Jaws (1975), perfectly capturing the awe and terror of both with subtle nods while also adding its own fully-defined characters, stunning camera work and a critique of the way society views ‘spectacle’. Jordan Peele’s third film really feels like his ‘biggest’ yet and fully encompasses a lot of what makes him great as a writer/director.
Nope has something for everyone, it’s funny, satirical, mysterious and genuinely unnerving at parts (two scenes will have you on edge for days after seeing it!). Where Us faltered with its third act reveals and baffling story choices, Nope keeps you hooked throughout with an engaging mystery that never reveals its cards too early and by the conclusion makes for an enjoyable cinematic adventure.
Cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema brings a real big screen awe to the camera work, often showing just enough to intrigue and allow the mind to speculate, as well as beautiful vistas and striking night time shots. Peele’s now two time collaborator, Daniel Kaluuya, who he has described as the ‘De Niro to his Scorsese’ really shines as a stoic farm hand, always making the calculated decisions and often saying so much with just a look. Keke Palmer works perfectly off Kaluuya, as she plays the more high-energy outgoing Haywood sister.
Walking Dead fans will also be pleased to see Steven Yeun make an appearance as the mysterious Ricky, whose traumatic past leads to one of the film’s best sequences. Although his character feels very under-used come the end credits. Another character who failed to make a huge impact was the cinematographer character played by Michael Wincott, who comes across as cryptic and mysterious for the sake of it with his character not adding that much to the story.
Overall, while Jordan Peele may never come close to topping the unexpected success of Get Out, Nope proves him to be a versatile filmmaker that clearly has an eye for the mysterious, spooky and cinematic. Nope might be my favourite cinematic experience of the year so far, with elements of comedy, sci-fi/horror and satire that make for a really entertaining ride.