With Nope, Jordan Peele further solidifies his standing as the modern horror auteur. Who else is making movies like Peele right now? A better question might be, who else do the studios trust to make big budget, non-franchise films like this? (the list is very short.) With his third feature, Peele again delivers on that trust with another compelling narrative that pairs thrills with dazzling cinematography, as well as a willingness to subvert the expectations of his audience.
Siblings OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald (Keke Palmer) Haywood are co-owners of Haywood’s Hollywood Horses, horse trainers serving the entertainment industry and descendants of a proud legacy. They are struggling to keep their heads above water in a competitive, dwindling industry (after all, a CGI horse is way easier to train, right?) They also have to contend with the long reputational shadow of their late father (Keith David), as well as the pressures of their family’s place in cinematic history (legend has it that they are direct decedents of the jockey featured in one of the very first motion pictures.) When OJ thinks he may have discovered UFO on the edges of their family ranch, he seizes on an opportunity to capture (and profit from) photographic evidence of their discovery.
The cinematography and performances in this film are top-notch. Hoyte Van Hoytema will receive Oscar consideration for his enthralling cinematography. The visuals are equally inspired by westerns and classical blockbuster thrillers. They are the foundation upon which the film’s success is built – especially the last 20 minutes (an absolute white-knuckle thrill ride.)
Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer give tremendous lead performances. Working with Peele for the second time (after 2017’s prolific Get Out), Kaluuya gives a subtle showcase. I can’t get enough of this pairing – I hope they work together 20 more times. Kaluuya’s OJ is quieter and more introverted than Palmer’s Emerald. Given his screen-time, he has minimal dialogue in the film – most of his performance comes from his eyes, his facial expressions, and his body language. I was reminded of Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name character – someone who listened more than he spoke but was deliberate (and often lethal) in his action. Palmer’s Emerald is a ball of kinetic energy but also delivers poignant moments as well (especially in the film’s final act.) The two siblings have an easy, unfussy chemistry with each other.
Steven Yeun is phenomenal in the supporting role of former child star turned ranch/amusement park owner Ricky “Jupe” Park. When he was younger, Ricky was part of a TV sitcom co-starring a chimpanzee named Gordy. A tragedy occurred on set, and Ricky has spent his adulthood profiting off the memory of this trauma. While this incident fits with the film’s overall theme of spectacle (and the ways that humanity tries, and fail, to contain nature) it is an awkward fit. There are some haunting images associated with Ricky’s story (especially a moment where Gordy looks directly into the camera lens), but the resolution of this sub-plot doesn’t fit seamlessly with the action occurring on the Haywood ranch. Perhaps there is a larger intention here from Peele, but it just didn’t connect with me.
Ultimately, Nope showcases Peele delivering on another compelling and thoughtful entry. You’ll be staring at the sky when you walk out of the theater.
NOPE – Only in Theaters 7.22.22
“What’s a bad miracle?”
Oscar® winner Jordan Peele disrupted and redefined modern horror with Get Out and then Us. Now, he reimagines the summer movie with a new pop nightmare: the expansive horror epic, Nope.
The film reunites Peele with Oscar® winner Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out, Judas and the Black Messiah), who is joined by Keke Palmer (Hustlers, Alice) and Oscar® nominee Steven Yeun (Minari, Okja) as residents in a lonely gulch of inland California who bear witness to an uncanny and chilling discovery.
Nope, which co-stars Michael Wincott (Hitchcock, Westworld) and Brandon Perea (The OA, American Insurrection), is written and directed by Jordan Peele and is produced by Ian Cooper (Us, Candyman) and Jordan Peele for Monkeypaw Productions. The film will be released by Universal Pictures worldwide.