There is no doubt that Jordan Peele is one of the most ambitious and compelling filmmakers of this generation. His first film Get Out took the world by storm with its humor-laced horror and sprinkles of social commentary, and is highly regarded to this day. His follow-up, Us, while not obtaining the same amount of success that Get Out had, was still beloved by audiences, and proved that Peele was not a “one hit wonder.” Now, solidified as a bonafide hitmaker with only two films, Peele graces the screen once again with his third motion picture, Nope.
OJ and Em Haywood help run a Hollywood horse ranch with their father, who unfortunately dies after being hit by random objects falling from the sky. Although it is immediately assumed to be from airplane, six months after the incident, signs appear that seem to suggest that the objects came from something more extraterrestrial. Eventually, one night, they discover an unidentified flying object hiding in the clouds OJ and Em, at risk of losing the ranch due to decreasing business, decide to try and capture evidence of the UFO to get the attention of the press. When the UFO seems to interfere with electronics when close by, they recruit the help of an electronics store clerk, as well as a famous documentarian, to accomplish their goal and let the world know their existence.
In many ways, Nope is a spectacle to behold. The film is gorgeously shot by cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema, who sci-fi fans would know as the man who shot Ad Astra. The scenes with the UFO are beyond description with how beautiful they are, and Peele direction feels as sharp as ever, filling the frame with as much suspense, intrigue and atmosphere as the scene requires. Speaking of filling screens, the best way to see this film would be on an IMAX screen, as the sound design also adds to the unsettling atmosphere, although some dialogue scenes turn out inaudible like in Interstellar. In addition to the direction and effects, the cast is also great, especially Keke Palmer, who really shines as Em with her charisma, humor and energy.
Peele also includes many interesting bits of commentary, the highlight being the mentioning of The Horse in Motion. It is an interesting look at a significant step in the development of motion pictures, but it also serves as an interesting piece of the puzzle that is the film’s story. Sadly, not all of these pieces come together by the end. The biggest example would be the opening scene, which features a monkey killing the cast of a television sitcom. This is not completely out of place with the story, as it does add to the backstory of Steven Yeun’s character, it doesn’t appear to hold any real significance towards the climax, despite its placement in the beginning. The opening scenes for both Get Out and Us feel abstract, too, but they contained a hidden meaning that closely tied in to the revelations at the end. The opening scene of Nope, Maybe there is some sort of connection to be made, but it might take a few more watches to find one for that particular scene.
Perhaps, though, this is a testament to how an audience member views a director’s films. For example, because M. Night Shyamalan first few films had significant twist endings, it is easy for audiences to assume every one of his films would contain one, even though some don’t. The same could be said about Steven Spielberg, as many tend to be surprised when a film he makes turns out not to be sentimental. Directors should not be expected to make the same movie over and over again, because it leaves them no room to explore their artistic side and experiment. Yes, Jordan Peele is using some of his old tricks assuming that audiences are expecting them, but maybe at the end of the day, he just wanted to make a fun movie extraterrestrial. Well, more or less, he did!
Not much else can be said about Nope, because it is best to be experienced with an open mind (and also on an IMAX screen.) While it may not be as impactful or well-constructed as Get Out or Us, Nope serves up a refreshing and fun take on alien movies thanks to the visual style and the cast. In regards to its flaws, there is no indication that Peele has lost his touch, only that his touch has its limits. Regardless, he managed to make another hit, albeit an uneven one, and will have many more to come. In the meantime, they should go to the theater, see Nope, and decide for themselves!