In just two movies, Jordan Peele has placed himself at the top of the mountain of socially relevant horror which managed to push boundaries while vitally still remained relevant to a large audience. So a relevant question now hangs in the air like a looming UFO pondering its next move: how exactly does one follow up such a devastating one-two punch as Get Out and Us?
Well, apparently you go big and you go weird, because Peele’s third directorial effort, Nope, widens his story telling parameters to an unheard of degree and delivers an alien invasion story that at once is oddly familiar while simultaneously feeling like nothing you’ve ever seen before to deliver an exhilarating experience that, at times, even manages to out-Spielberg Steven Spielberg when it comes to jaw-unhinging spectacle.
But that’s the hook, because its core, Nope’s target is horribly relevant. The addiction to spectacle itself.


Six months after their father dies in a freak accident, OJ and Emerald Haywood struggle to keep their ranch afloat as their clashing personalities affect their business of training horses for film. While the quiet, introvert OJ tries his best, he simply hasn’t got the people skills the livewire Emerald naturally has – but on the other hand she hasn’t even got half the love and dedication to the business her brother has, choosing to try and find fame through various other avenues. Things seem dire after they’ve had to resort to selling their horses to the nearby western theme park ran by former child star Ricky Park, but their fortunes may be on the verge of changing when they finally get on the same page after spotting an unidentified flying object that’s been hiding in an unmoving cloud that’s been swooping down and taking up their horses. Obsessed with fame at almost any cost, Emerald immediately throws out the idea of finally catching that rarest of images, that of an unfuzzy flying saucer that will gain them fame and fortune and the siblings pool their resources ton order to get what OJ refers to as the “Oprah Shot”.
However, as their quest eventually draws various hanger ons such as an employee of an electronics store and even eventually a professional cinematographer, it soon becomes apparent that they aren’t the only ones attempting to monetise this mysterious, airborne phenomenon as Park (who has already found a way to earn serious bank off of the bloody tragedy that ended his TV career) has chosen to dedicate a section of his theme park to the flying pattern of this otherworldly craft.
But that’s just it. The thing isn’t a craft, or a spaceship and while OJ has managed to figure out its behavioral patterns from training animals all these years, it’s still going to be no less dangerous to get that all important shot.


Firstly, I feel that I should attach some sort of warning to my review of Nope, because if you’re one of those people who kind of like their sci-fi, alien malarkey on the more predictable side, then the careening plot shifts of Jordan Peele’s latest may leave you feeling somewhat lost in the desert as his themes and approach never quite goes where you think they will.
To cut through the fog, Nope is a movie that damns the desire for spectacle while simultaneously embracing it as our leads scrabble around, trying to get definitive proof of the alien presence that lives within a cloud near their ailing Californian ranch. Be it spectacle overtaking story in filmmaking to our macabre fascination of endlessly doom scrolling as people desperately debase themselves for likes, our ravenous desire to “see something” often overtakes the thinking to question whether on not it actually needs to exist and Peele let’s this guide his characters to their risky, yet depressingly relatable decisions.
Keke Palmer’s, unreliable, always “on” Emerald is hungry for fame, often throwing herself headlong into situations before even surveying the land, of course she’ll want to tack advantage of it; on the flip side, Daniel Kaluuya’s more measured OJ simply wants the photo to save his dads ranch, but both get caught up in the experience to going to ever more dangerous antics to try and get clear footage of this thing. Elsewhere, entrepreneur Ricky believes he can get this thing to perform to a timetable by sheer belief borne from him surviving a vicious chimp attack during his child actor days and enigmatic cinematographer, Holst, merely wants to capture that impossible shot but all are willing to put everything on the line to feed their various addictions to fame and spectacle. All of the cast are excellent but both Palmer and Kaluuya excel due to making their brother/sister bond feel utterly genuine despite their very different personalities and they make two characters who could have been in danger of being incredibly unsympathetic due to some of their more vapid reasonings, real and three dimentional.


But its unsurprisingly Peele who kicks the most ass here, mashing expectation, genres and esoteric sub-plots to make something extraordinarily fresh and invigorating that takes established genre tropes and turns them on their head.
Whether it’s the racially charged body snatching of Get Out or the doppelganging shenanigans of Us, the director puts a similar, unpredictable spin on the kind of close encounters seen in Signs, War Of The Worlds and… well, Close Encounters and the result is nothing short of thrilling – but beyond that, Peele drops in many cheeky movie references, riffing on westerns with some breathtaking landscapes, anime (the Akira-style bike is a thing of beauty) and others. In fact, the second that it’s revealed that (SPOILER) the flying saucer isn’t actually a spacecraft all, but is a unfurling, predatory lifeform that hoovers up people to eat, Nope becomes a radical reworking of Jaws, with hastily reloaded film canisters filling in for Hooper fumbling with the harpoon ropes and a string of bunting doing a good impersonation of those tell-tale yellow barrels. The exciting perversion of blockbuster tropes continues as the film uses the agonisingly tense hide-and-seek dynamics Spielberg would usually set in an attic or a kitchen, but Peele expands them into the predatory creature (dubbed by the siblings as Jean Jacket) having the whole fucking sky to stalk its prey through, ducking behind clouds and hills, waiting for the necessary eye contact it needs to attack.


Of course, just because the movie has shifted the director’s attention to primarily wide open spaces soaked in daylight, that doesn’t mean Nope is scarce in scares and a scene where Jean Jacket expels all the things it can’t digest (along with a shit-load of blood) all over the Haywood homestead in a scarlet torrent is freakishly tense – as is the carrying out of that final plan to get that all important photo.
Some may complain that Peele’s newest is maybe too much removed from what they were expecting, but that’s exactly the point and with its themes deeply entrenched in knowing irony (the only way to be safe from Jean Jacket’s gaping maw is to not to look at the very creature you’re trying to get footage of), the socially conscious director is now comfortably batting three for three.
To randomly paraphrase Parks And Recreation: vote yes for Nope.


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