Review: Nope

Sometimes I miss films that have come out in 2022. I’m human. Occasionally, I’ll catch up on some films I finally got around to that I may have missed.

No one does spectacle-as-metaphor better than Jordan Peele. He proves it once again with Nope – a statement on attempting to profit off uncontrollable forces of nature, disguised as an alien-monster movie.

Daniel Kaluuya stars as OJ Haywood, the owner of his family horse ranch in Aqua Dulce, California. OJ inherited the ranch following the unexplained death of his father Otis Sr. (Keith David) from a nickel that fell from the sky. OJ is joined by his sister Em (Keke Palmer), who is more outgoing, but less inclined to work with the horses.

One day, OJ and Em discover their horses being taken by a UFO that looks like a flying saucer. Looking to capitalize on the opportunity, the pair set up a series of cameras with the help of Fry’s Electronics employee Angel Torres (Brandon Perea). Down the valley from the siblings, former child star Jupe Park (Steven Yeun) also looks to capitalize on the UFO (named Jean Jacket) as the main attraction in his wild west theme park.

Poole puts animals in the forefront of the narrative. Horses, Jean Jacket (portrayed as a wild animal), and a television star monkey all are treated with condescension. Most people treat it like a dumb animal that can be easily controlled or manipulated. In each case, capitalism is the driving force behind each decision.

At the same time, OJ and Em don’t just view visual evidence of a UFO as their meal ticket. They are acutely aware of human nature. If they don’t get the evidence and make the money, someone else will. While others attempt to come in and want to exploit Jean Jacket for their own purposes, OJ and Em respect the entity for what it is. Their experience with animals gives them the foundation to approach Jean Jacket as a territorial predator who must not be underestimated.

Kaluuya plays OJ as the strong silent type. He is steady and measured, the polar opposite of his sister. OJ is all business and Kaluuya doesn’t overdo the characterization. Palmer gets to have all the fun. Em is an outgoing personality who is more than willing to part with a business she never felt a part of. At the same time, her love for her brother outweighs any selfish desires. Palmer’s megawatt movie star personality is on full display. She is electric each time she is onscreen.

Perea plays the most grounded of characters, who simultaneously can’t stay away and can’t believe he is involved. Yeun plays a bit of a cypher; a man who understands the scope of the situation but doesn’t grasp the danger. Both do fine work. It’s also a welcome sight to see Michael Wincott as a cinematographer who attempts to help the siblings capture Jean Jacket on film. He’s the opitime of a idiosyncratic filmmaker, but he lives in a different plain of existence than the humans on screen. No actor misses the mark.

Jean Jacket is initially just a basic flying saucer, until it is slowly revealed to be much more. Each subsequent viewing gives a greater idea of what it fully looks like until the stunning finale. Much like the shark in Jaws, an immediate look at Jean Jacket would have cheapened the spectacle of the ending.

Despite all the themes, Jordan Peele proves he is a showman. Nope is two hours of alien entertainment that is way more fun than it has any right to be.

Nope is now available to watch on-demand
Score: 4.0/5.0

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