Nope Review: Peele’s big summer spectacle cements his title as a modern master of suspesne
Jordan Peele’s first two films, Get Out and Us, showed Peele as a rising force in the horror genre through his ability to craft unique horror stories while mixing in his own unique brand of comedy as well as strong social themes to give his films immensely engaging depth. With his newest film, Nope, Peele delivers his take on a summer horror blockbuster that not only cements him as a modern master of suspense, but also feels like an instant classic.
Nope’s setting, premise, and characters are some of Peele’s most unique to date. First and foremost, the film’s desert valley setting is incredible to see on the big screen and perfectly utilized. The cinematography from Hoyte Van Hoytema makes this mostly empty environment a true visual treat as it ends up being the perfect playground for the incredible premise that Peele’s concocted for Nope. The film follows siblings OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald (Keke Palmer) after they inherit their family horse farm due to their father’s (Keith David) untimely death. One night after one of the horses gets out, OJ notices a UFO in the sky flying over, stealing the horses, and knocking out all the electronics in the area. Determined to keep their home safe and make some money after business dwindles, OJ and Emerald attempt to capture the UFO on video but find themselves in a battle of wills against a vengeful force.
The level of detail and mystery that Peele brings to Nope’s story and characters from the start is honestly what makes his films so engaging and easy to invest yourself into. The hole that’s left after OJ and Emerald’s father dies is constantly felt as their struggles to maintain the business and the slight divide in their personalities create these interesting conflicts and arcs. Through Kaluuya’s great performance and some well-timed flashbacks, we really see this connection built that drives OJ’s motivations to protect his family business and his frustration in failing to do so. Like Us, we also get a great opening mystery built of a tragedy that befell another character named Ricky “Jupe” Park (Steven Yeun), the survivor of a gruesome massacre on the set of a family sitcom. It’s a story thread that weaves greatly throughout the film and although it feels like it’s going to play a bigger role than it does, it does influence the film’s big themes and delivers some chilling scares.
Nope’s opening moments excellently connect you to its characters and eventually leads to the introduction of its greatest character, the UFO. The UFO is easily Nope’s most compelling element as the familiar design instantly catches your eye and its presence presents a tantalizing mystery. The way Peele creates suspense around the UFO is just masterful as you can’t help but keep your eyes locked to the screen as you drift closer to the edge of your seat with each glimpse you get of it. Just like OJ, Emerald, and their tech cohort Angel (Brandon Perea), you feel completely transfixed by the UFO as it acts as a haunting and daunting presence. However, where Peele is most masterful with the UFO is in how he characterizes it by making it less monstrous than expected.
Sure, it does some pretty gruesome things to the people and horses that it captures in its wind tornado pull, but it’s not just some simple monster. Rather, Peele makes the UFO just as deep and intriguing as Nope’s human characters and does a great job creating these little details that make it a richer entity. It’s what makes Nope’s central storyline of OJ and Emerald trying to capture it on film so thrilling as it becomes less of a game of survival and more of a thrilling cat and mouse fight for dominance. Because of this film being more of a thrilling chase, Nope actually gives off some major Jaws vibes and Peele is able to blend his best elements as a writer and a director flawlessly.
Man, Peele really knows how to bring in the perfect cast as really every performance perfectly fits with Peele’s style, with Kaluuya and Palmer being big standouts. There are great scares that will totally make you jump, including a first encounter type sequence with OJ that’ll leave you shook. Peele’s comedy is top-notch and well-timed as the chemistry between characters like OJ and Emerald can be hilarious and heartfelt. Plus, there are plenty of fun reactions in the film that play on the film’s title. However, it’s really the suspense that Peele builds that makes Nope so much fun to watch as he builds up tension and anticipation perfectly. There are tons of moments throughout that totally leave you shaking with anticipation as conflicts build and it all leads to a great mix of satisfying conclusions. Sometimes it leads to excellent scares and other times you’re left jaw-dropped by unexpected turns and strong reveals. Nope’s reveals are some of the best in recent time as they often change your perspective on things, especially the true nature of the UFO, and ramp up the stakes and danger to thrilling new heights.
The entire finale is the exact kind of tense, emotional, and action-packed final duel that never loses its horror feel and is worthy of being an epic blockbuster end. Even though Nope might not be as thematically profound as Peele’s other films, there are some big themes to chew on that leave a lasting impression. Personally, the biggest and most prominent one deals with people’s obsession with spectacle and surveillance culture as it is a constant discussion point and fault for a lot of the characters and plays a major role in some of their demises. Nope feels like a perfect cautionary tale of spectacles highlighting the dangers of looking too deep into something you don’t fully understand and finding a greater beast within that leaves you in a fatal position.
Nope is truly THE must-watch summer blockbuster of the year with Peele providing an engaging and captivating thrill ride that showcases some of the best suspense-building of all time. It’s another film from Peele that showcases why he’s one of the best filmmakers working currently and the great scares, laughs, and big screen spectacle he provides makes for an unforgettable horror experience.
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