“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for”…
In one of the more hotly anticipated films of the year in Nope we see something that really has a smattering of genius to it that audiences looking for more of what we saw from writer/director Jordan Peele in films like Get Out & Us might actually be disappointed.
Nope takes us to the residents in a lonely gulch of inland California bear witness to an uncanny and chilling discovery.
While Nope is ultimately more akin to the science fiction that was born out of the 80’s in the Amblin Entertainment style of filmmaking that so many of us grew up with, it still has some trademark Jordan Peele flourishes that people have grown to recognize him for. However on this outing, audiences should be expecting something more along the lines of Jaws then Scream.
This film deftly leans on the action in the story in a really effective way making it a driver for the narrative. As Peele drops some nuggets of social commentary throughout the film what he does even more effectively is really show us his skills as a visual filmmaker. With only the California countryside to work with as a back drop Peele really takes us to another world that is also just adjacent to that world of Hollywood which he is so deftly poking fun at in this film. As he goes through the narrative there are no broad swipes or clunky moments to contend with instead we truly get an exercise in nuance as he makes his version of a “popcorn film” and he makes it exceptionally well using the IMAX cameras to craft us into a very immersive experience of solving the mysteries around what is going on.
It’s purposefully ironic that using the lore of Hollywood as something that entraps these people (until they discover what’s actually keeping them there) is used as somewhat of a metaphor here but it’s an apt one. The mystery evolves from the emotional obstacles that their characters are facing until it turns into a literal one and it’s particularly true with a leading man who in the climax is wearing orange, riding a white Bronco who is being pushed out of a business he’s known his entire life and just happens to be named “O.J.”. Even when he’s staging a set piece, he can still make commentary about the difficulty of black owned businesses trying to make it in a predominately white world.
As it all unfolds and the drama builds so do the set pieces, yeah some of them are scary (and deservedly so) but for the first time Peele builds a real sense of scope with the action which all works in concert with the nature of the story. As good as his other films have been, here Peele shows us that he can truly tell a story using actual scope and making it feel entirely larger than life all at the same time.
From here on out I think that we can categorize Daniel Kaluuya as a “Jordan Peele” player from this point on. He brings a truly genuine and grounded sensibility to the lead as a man who was thrust into ultimately working with his family until he was ultimately thrust into be a leader of this rag tag group who are trying to prove the existence of an extra-terrestrial that is tormenting them on their ranch.
While I’ve never been a huge Keke Palmer fan, she brings the exact counter balance of energy that is needed opposite Kaluuya while Steven Yuen lends some credibility the ‘Hollywood’ vibe that these characters are all holding on to, but that being said there’s one person who almost steals the whole thing.
The incomparable Michael Wincott shows up on the big screen for the first time in years as Antlers Holst who is tasked with finding the perfect shot as his gravel inflected delivery makes for a perfect world weary hero that we’d never expect, much like ‘Quint’ played supremely by Robert Shaw in Jaws.
Ultimately, we can’t call Nope a horror movie….because it’s really not. Yeah it’s got some elements to it, but at the end of the day this is an adventure movie with a little bit of a sociological bent to that you can hold against some of the best films and filmmakers that have ever come before. Jordan Peele is quickly on his way to finding the rarified air at the top of the Hollywood circuit. Get Out announced his arrival while Us proved he wasn’t a fluke and here with Nope just might become a household name in filmmaking much like many of the greats he pays visual homage to in this film that is just one hell of an entertaining ride.
- Release Date: 7/22/2022