Sci-fi Horror Epic Nope (2022) Takes Audiences to New Heights This Summer
First Non-Festival Release: July 21, 2022 (Theatrical Release,)
Director: Jordan Peele
Writer: Jordan Peele
Runtime: 135 Minutes
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
After a bizarre accident took the life of his father, OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) struggles to maintain his father's legacy: the family’s ranch. His sister Emerald (Keke Palmer) makes matters worse with her unserious attitude and thirst for stardom. They survive now by selling their horses to the ranch theme park next door operated by former child star Ricky ‘Jupe’ Park (Steven Yeun). It’s not until OJ follows one of his horses out at night that he discovers a sinister presence preying on their stable late at night. Hidden by cloud cover, the siblings decide that they could make serious money by capturing the presence on film.
Slow to pick up but captivating once it hits its stride, Nope adds another notch in director Jordan Peele’s belt of genre wins.
A bombastic summer blockbuster with plenty of horror, science fiction, and suspense to delight moviegoers, Nope is worthy of all the hype drummed up since it was first announced years ago. At its heart, the film follows two siblings trying to make the best of their life circumstances while finding hope in something deemed impossible. The quest to document and prove the existence of the presence haunting the gulch engulfs them both, and others, for different reasons.
Throughout the film, each leading player has their own distinct reason for putting themselves in danger. Capturing glory in their profession, compensating for lost childhood, averting boredom, making money, and catapulting careers are amongst the reasons. The diversity in motivations helps keep the dynamics fresh and the action interesting. It’s hard to guess what each player’s move will be when they are all so startlingly different. It also feeds into the greater themes of the work beautifully.
Rich in subtext, critics and audiences will be peeling the layers away from Nope for years to come. It’s biggest, and most obvious, take comes in the form of camera dependence. At every turn, the desire to film and document is lambasted. From television shows gone wrong to security camera failures and even TMZ reporters inadvertently dying to their own stupidity, Nope makes no apologies for the ways that we prioritize media above all else. The stranglehold that Hollywood has over these characters is evident in their actions, for better or for worse.
Supported by a fantastic cast, Nope is set up for success from the onset. Harkening back to the era of stoic cowboys saving the day, Daniel Kaluuya’s take on OJ is grounded in his reality as a stunt animal trainer struggling to keep his father’s legacy alive. Kaluuya’s steely eyed bravado in the face of certain death is electrifying. Opposite of Kaluuya, Keke Palmer is an absolute knockout in every scene. Her command of emotion, from fear to mirth to swagger makes it easy to root for Emerald, even when she is clearly annoying her brother. The rest of the supporting cast rounds out the dynamic with equal zeal. Steven Yuen, Brandon Perea, and Michael Wincott do a fantastic job of propping up the sibling pair while growing in their own right.
Visually dazzling, Nope is worthy of its comparisons to smash hits like Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind from its scale of action. Each set is designed uniquely to progress the story along while giving the film the illusion of being bigger than it seems. Realistically, the action is confined to a small area outside of Los Angeles, but between the gully, the ranch, the various stores, and the city Nope gives the illusion of visual depth. Beyond its rich design, the cinematography is breathtaking. Huge, sweeping shots allow the true terror behind the presence hunting in the valley to be present and obscured at the same time. While it isn’t so much a surprise reveal, it does allow for the impact to evolve throughout the film as it takes on many beautifully terrifying forms.
While Nope is an extraordinary feat in genre storytelling, it is not without its flaws. Easily Peele’s most ambitious effort, Nope ropes together many themes to tell his story of a digital society obsessed with fame, self-promotion, and nostalgia. Sometimes Nope gets lost underneath the grandiose nature of its commentary. With a longer runtime and more time spent building on these themes, it is likely that this issue would be subverted. The problem is Nope is already running strong at two hours and fifteen minutes. Peele revealed that Nope was nearly four hours long in its first iteration. Clearly, some important parts of the film are cut. Necessary or not, the pacing is noticeably off in certain parts of the film.
While not Peele’s best work, Nope is an excellent summer sci-fi horror spectacle that latches onto the viewer with heart stopping action and layered themes and commentary. It speaks volumes to Peele’s talents as a director, as Nope would be the crown jewel in many other creator’s filmography. Anchored by an incredibly talented cast, standouts of course being Kaluuya, Palmer, and Yeun, Nope soars to new heights with its cast of strongly developed characters. Beyond the basics, Nope is simply a fun and engaging film. Its set pieces are dazzling, its imagery is iconic, and its perfect understanding of tone keeps the film consistently whimsical, daring, provocative, and, yes, scary. Which brings us to the final question, is there anything quite like this film being released in theaters? Nope.
Overall Score? 7.5/10