Basically: A brother and sister investigate a possible extraterrestrial threat to their home.
Jordan Peele is back with some good original cinema for the masses. While you’re bound to see hyperbole before and after the film comes out regarding his greatness as a director, I have to say that Nope is fire. Peele continues his exploration of gripping horror-like concepts while also stretching the abilities and scale of his stories. I saw Nope days ago and I’m still thinking about it.
All the pieces of the story don’t easily fall into place and, while some critics might say it’s hard to understand, it’s kind of a throwback movie in the way that it doesn’t explain everything. Nope mixes the best of Peele’s first two stories, Get Out and Us. Nope’s plot isn’t similar to those movies but it’s a bit more straightforward like Get Out while also allowing you to wonder how it all comes together and what it means like Us. Peele achieves this through Nope’s cast who all do great work, especially the two leads, Keke Palmer and Daniel Kaluuya.
In Nope, OJ (Kaluuya) and Emerald Haywood (Palmer) are trying to keep their family business afloat after the loss of their father. They work in show business as animal handlers or wranglers. OJ (AKA Otis Junior) is the quiet, introverted one who focuses more on the animals than the Hollywood people they have to work with. However, when weird occurrences start happening, OJ and Emerald have to deal with the business’ financial issues and the advances of former child actor Ricky Park (Steven Yeun) who owns a tourist trap. Emerald persuades OJ to try and capture an image of what is causing those weird happenings on their ranch so they can get rich and famous. Nothing goes as planned. In fact, Nope doesn’t go where you expect it to from the trailers, which remain purposely vague. That is a pretty fantastic skill Peele has and he can pull it off. Making money will do that for you.
Keke Palmer as Emerald, or Em as she’s primarily called, has so much charisma it’s like a tidal wave hitting you in the face. She is comfortable in this role; it’s like she’s been Emerald her whole life. You feel comfortable with her too and want to hang out with Emerald, even with her messy habits.
Kaluuya’s OJ is equally as captivating. He’s able to bring the quiet and calm nature we’ve seen in so many western-style protagonists throughout cinema history. He does a lot of work with his eyes, while the tone of his voice is accentuated by Peele and cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema’s camera work and how they frame his face.
I can’t find any issues to criticize because I believe in the end, Nope comes together. I feel this film has a lot in common with Hideaki Anno’s work with Neon Genesis Evangelion and his Shin series celebrating Japan’s three core Tokusatsu icons. While most will talk and gush over the Akira scene reference—which is dope, by the way—it is very much earned. It’s a different lens through which I see a US cinema style take on this Japanese-style story in some parts.
Nope is also very, very Black. The jokes about how Black people would not engage with the danger in real life are explored with the right amount of suspense and comedy. Like when the characters see something wild, they say “Nope,” and then they leave, which is hilarious, honest, and different for these types of films. It’s refreshing to see—like an exhale you have been waiting to do your whole life.
In the End: Nope is a stellar film that mixes comedy, horror, and science fiction into a beautiful cinematic experience to make one of the best films of 2022.