Nope was a movie I wanted to know as little about before I went into it. Of course, I was going to see the latest Jordan Peele horror movie, especially after loving Get Out and being mildly pleased by Us. When the initial teaser trailer dropped, I was sold. I didn’t need to see any more. And yet, the trailers kept coming out and revealing more and more of the plot. And my interest began to dwindle.
As I watched Nope, I wondered if my enjoyment of it was being hampered by knowing too much about it. I was undoubtedly enjoying myself, but it felt like I would have liked it more if I didn’t know what the main goal of the plot was. By the time the credits rolled, I can safely say the trailers don’t give away the game entirely, but the shocking moments weren’t as shocking as they could have been.
That being said, Nope hits more than it misses, delivering a solid summer blockbuster that anyone can get behind.
Director: Jordan Peele
Release Date: July 22, 2022
OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) is a horse rancher in California working for his dad (Keith David). After his dad is killed by mysterious falling debris and is unable to have their horses hired for film shoots, OJ is forced to start selling horses to a local theme park owner Jupe (Steven Yeun). His sister Em (Keke Palmer), wants the ranch to be sold because she feels nothing towards it and only visits to tie a few loose ends, but both siblings start to experience strange things at the ranch. Horses are being startled/mysteriously taken and the electricity fluctuates wildly, with both siblings discovering this is the result of a nearby UFO. So the pair decide to document the UFO and profit off of the discovery of a century… if they can even photograph the damn thing.
I like the overall simplicity of the plot. Everything about Nope feels like an honest-to-goodness, back-to-basics approach for Peele. There aren’t any complex allegories present here that define the movie. It’s a simple story about two siblings trying to document a UFO and not die in the process. There are a lot of great moments that lend themselves to horror, but it’s more of a thriller at times with several intense scenes. In fact, a lot of the movie line sup more with films like Jaws and Tremors than Get Out or Us.
Daniel Kaluuya does a great job at giving a very understated performance. He feels like a perfect realist audience surrogate. When he sees the insanity unfold around him and dangerous scenes start to present themselves, he just doesn’t engage, usually to hilarious results. His subdued nature made him a perfect foil to Keke’s Palmer’s more energetic character, who felt a bit more cartoony at times, but still had an infectious energy. Together, they have a great dynamic that allows them to play off each other and the people they come across in brilliant little moments.
And that’s really where Nope shines best. There are individual scenes that are great throughout the film, whether they’re due to some excellent cinematography, dripping tension, horrific imagery, or little character moments. There are plenty of these watercooler moments that people will talk about after seeing the film because of the sheer spectacle of it, and it’s going to occupy a lot of my headspace when I talk about stunning film moments of 2022.
That being said, a fair bit of the movie felt meandering. Steven Yeun’s character has this interesting backstory that you think is going to factor into a lot of his modern-day actions, but they don’t. His scenes are the ones where I feel like there’s a deeper meaning to them, but it’s not clear what the purpose was. If it was a commentary on child stardom, it wasn’t very clear what the point of it was and it ultimately results in nothing significant. Leading off with one of his flashbacks sets an odd expectation for the film that never really comes back for the UFO plot.
I already took issue with the marketing of the film in how much it reveals, but the movie seemed to feed into that with a lot of moments that felt like they only existed for the trailer. When there is a facially scarred woman creeping around and looking up into the sky in a trailer, it piques your interest. In the movie, she has no lines, only appears in one scene, and her purpose seems to only be for trailer footage. That’s a problem that the movie has a fair bit of. So much of the really striking imagery serves no purpose other than to be edited into a trailer to make the movie look more ambitious than it actually is.
For the record, I have no issues with Nope’s lack of ambition. It tells the story it wants to tell, and that’s that. If I did have a genuine issue, it would be that the climax drags as OJ, Em, and their little crew finally attempt to film the UFO. It just seemed to go on for far too long, and if it was a bit leaner, the movie would have certainly benefitted from it. As it stands, the movie is a little over two hours and begins to overstay its welcome towards the end. The rest of it was paced very well, including the meaningless flashbacks. Sure they were meaningless, but they still infused Nope with some of its most chilling imagery.
By all accounts, Nope is a very fun thriller with a solid cast and equally entertaining moments almost because it doesn’t have any deep social commentary it’s trying to make. If you’re going into it expecting something like his previous films, you’re going to be disappointed, but you’ll still come around to liking it. You may not love it, since its diversions serve more as distractions than anything else, but you’ll come out pleased and ready to tell others that they should check it out. It’s the perfect thriller to see on a hot summer day with a group of friends.