Nope is Jordan Peele’s third feature-length horror (Picture: AP)
Jordan Peele’s Nope forces us to look at whether the ‘spectacle’ we’re so desperate to see in this day and age – both on-screen and in real life – is actually worth the obsession.
Well, in the case of the latest fictional world he’s created at least, it’s definitely worth the view.
Nope follows brother and sister OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald Haywood (Keke Palmer) who own a horse ranch in California, passed down from their late father, Otis Haywood Sr, who was a jockey. The siblings soon become convinced that a UFO has been lingering over their ranch and embark on a mission to capture activity for that all-important, viral, money-shot.
*** Warning: Light spoilers ahead ***
Sound familiar? In this TikTok era of outrageous content, it should, and that’s what gives Nope the edge up against its traditional sci-fi counterparts – it’s by no means a run-of-the-mill horror, but you shouldn’t have expected anything less from the man who gave us the genre-busting Get Out and the even more mind-bending Us.
Much like its predecessors, Nope is on-the-money when it comes to drawing out relevant societal issues and presenting it in a scarily confronting package. It brilliantly challenges this generation’s need to be fame-hungry and the never-ending search for get-rich-quick schemes and, while the messaging feels like it’s in danger of getting lost in the sauce midway through the film with a drawn-out runtime, it’s significantly less complex than the divisive Us when you really consider the essence of what the story wants to convey.
There’s a heck of a lot of subplot to unpack and putting the pieces together – or having it done for us, which it frankly does – is a tantalising slow-burn. When you have a western landscape primarily set on a ranch mixed in with UFOs flitting across the sky, you’d imagine it’d be hard to take a film like Nope seriously. But somehow, Peele has once again mastered the art of suspenseful, lingering scenes that leave you unsettled to the core; unable to look at it yet also unable to look away.
And most of these scenes involve animals or, one in particular. Yes, if you thought chimpanzees were mostly cute and clever, wait until you meet Gordy, the frightful killer chimp whose stare could put the fear of God into you.
To contrast, the Haywood horses are a source of peace for OJ in particular and, while the stallions do tend to spook easily, the ominous looming of the ‘alien’ threatening to suck you in in an instance would be enough to make anything bolt into the dark of night.
Daniel Kaluuya conveys so much with few words as OJ (Picture: Universal Pictures)
Keke Palmer is perfect as Emerald (Picture: Universal Pictures via AP)
For all its moments of tension, Nope is just downright funny like a Peele project typically is.
Palmer and her comedic-timing is truly a gift in this otherwise dark and mysterious tale, with her infectious energy felt from the moment she quite literally bursts onto the screen. Her fast-talking, quick-witted Emerald comes across as natural and the perfect antidote to Kaluuya’s fairly muted OJ. That’s not to downplay the horse-loving ranch owner – quite the contrary – as Kaluuya yet again conveys what could be several pages of script with one glance or grunt and somehow we, the audience, know exactly what he’s saying.
It does feel as though there’s an untold story about the dynamic of the siblings that could have benefited from a little extra nourishment, but the effortless way Kaluuya and Palmer are able to bounce off each other fills the void.
A surprise standout in Nope is relative newcomer Brandon Perea in the role of Angel, the tech shop guy whose moments of light comedic relief perfectly supports Kaluuya and Palmer.
Perhaps the strongest part of Nope is the subplot which actually fuels the main theme, and follows the backstory of carnival theme park owner Jupe, played by Steven Yeun, who delivers a skillfully nuanced performance of a highly layered character.
Nope is a cinematic dream with gorgeous shots, strong characters and a message that will leave you questioning whether you’re exploiting the ‘spectacle’ in real life, long after the credits have run.
Is it the best instalment of Peele’s three horror movies so far? Nope. Will it provide two hours of thrilling cinema?
Nope is out in cinemas now.