In 2017, Jordan Peele, who became famous for his comedy work alongside Keegan-Michael Key, entered a new phase in his career. He wrote and directed “Get Out” a film that became a sensation that summer. The film combined intense social commentary with comedy and a good dose of mystery. With just that movie, Peele stopped being just another comedian and became an author. Someone that has his own distinct brand and storytelling style. He also won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for that movie.
Just two years later, Peele returned with his sophomore effort, “Us” a film that leaned even more into the creepy factor that made “Get Out” so special. However, unlike “Get Out”, “Us” wasn’t as well received by audiences. The movie became very divisive. Part of the audience loved the creepy story full of symbolism. Another part of the audience saw Peele losing himself to his own ideas, creating a film that was a mismatch of all the ideas he could throw on the screen.
Peele would also produce a couple of films for other directors, and even a Twilight Zone revival that didn’t last for long. Nevertheless, those projects cemented Peele as one of the most important forces in speculative fiction working in Hollywood right now. Peele’s new film, “Nope” continues the trend, and it is another example of the filmmaker creating a movie that feels more like an extended episode of The Twilight Zone than anything else.
Nope is written and directed by Jordan Peele and stars Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun, Brandon Perea, and Michael Wincott. The film tells the story of OJ, and his sister, Emerald. The two siblings are now handling the family business, which provides horses for film and television productions. The advancements in CGI and other factors are making projects more scarce, and money is getting tight. When an alien appears in the surrounding areas of their ranch, the siblings will try to make money out of it.
“Nope” shows that when it comes to film, Peele has his own voice. If that voice is going to be something people will like, that is another story. But the fact remains that Peele truly brings something unique to each of his films, they feel different, and just for that, they deserve to be watched. The production quality is always top-notch, the stories offer quite a bit of social commentary, and they add a ton of symbolism and plenty of ideas to the mix.
Each of his films is a unique experience, just like watching each episode of The Twilight Zone transports you to another universe where that specific story is being told. Peele combines his love for The Twilight Zone, and speculative fiction and basically creates his own version of Jaws, with an alien in the sky instead of a shark in the sea. Both movies are beautifully shot, and they go beyond just being creature films.
Nope is heavy on the theme. The film is very much focused on how today’s society is afraid to look things straight in the eye, especially when the things that we need to see make us uncomfortable. It isn’t easy to accept reality sometimes, especially when it is a reality that you can change. Having that kind of responsibility in your hands is not an easy thing. Peele works on this theme throughout the whole film and applies it mainly to Hollywood and the people working in it, but the theme is relevant in basically any industry, and in daily life.
While having a theme is excellent, sometimes it feels like the ways Peele has chosen to develop this theme are somewhat too on the nose or too subtle. The subtle balance between these two extremes seems to be shattered. Because of this, the movie will be divisive, as for many people the theme will be heavy-handed and others will wonder what Peele is trying to say with this or that element in the film. It is a hard balance to find, and it might be the case that Peele has failed to find it, just like he did with “Us”.
This doesn’t make “Nope” a bad film. Not at all. It is just that the movie is unbalanced when it comes to that aspect, and the pacing of the first act is also quite slow. Throughout the movie, Peele shows his talent for creating tension and creepy imagery. There are some amazingly depraved sequences in “Nope” and the film is just better for it, but these moments are missing some sort of connecting tissue, and so they feel like islands in an ocean.
Thankfully, while some sequences feel too long or unnecessary for the story, the cast is always there to bring those sequences up as much as they can. Kaluuya, who recently became an Oscar winner, shines in a role that reminds us of Clint Eastwood in his Westerns; a kind of silent type, a man with no name, who tries to do the best he can to survive. Kaluuya does a lot with very few words, and here he proves once again why he is one of the most talented actors of his generation.
Keke Palmer, on the other hand, is the complete opposite of Kaluuya. Not in terms of quality, she does an amazing job in the movie, and this could finally be her breakthrough role, but she is the opposite because of her character. OJ and Emerald are siblings, but they couldn’t be different. Emerald is loud, confident, and funny. She is the perfect funny guy to Kaluuya’s straight man, and the two really feel like family. Their roles are not explored as much as they could be, but nevertheless, both actors shine in the movie quite a bit.
The rest of the cast is equally fantastic. The characters are colorful, and while they don’t always justify their presence in the film, they are very welcome. Especially Wincott and his remarkable voice, as he plays an obsessive cinematographer looking for the perfect shot. This takes us to Hoyt van Hoytema, who shots this movie with grandeur and elegance. Hoytema has become famous for being Christopher Nolan’s go-to cinematographer, and here he shows he can shine outside of Nolan’s filmography.
Nope might be uneven, but it is an original film, the kind we need more of. The main cast is fantastic, and the visuals are striking, making what could be a small movie feel on a larger scale than it actually is. The movie will be divisive, there is no way around that, but it is well worth watching, especially if you love movies and how they are made.