An unexpected twist on the sci-fi genre Nope has its roots in such a wide variety of movie tropes, yet it seamlessly pulls them together.
Nope is the third movie of sketch comic-turned-writer director Jordan Peele. Having gained so much praise for his previous two outings in Get Out and Us, Nope was fast becoming the must-see movie of winter 2022. I’ll be honest I am yet to see either of his previous titles and went into Nope, not having watched a trailer or knowing what to expect other than the reputation that Peele had gained from his previous outings.
Nope takes place in a small area of inland California and surrounds the Haywood family on their family horse ranch Haywood Hollywood Horses. After the strange and sudden death of their father Otis Snr. (Keith David) on the ranch OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald (Keke Palmer) try to keep the family business alive. OJ is the quiet unassuming type, more at home with his horses than around people and definitely not comfortable around his Hollywood clients whereas Emerald is much more of an extrovert and not above sprucing her acting and stunt skills while on set with the horses.
The ranch isn’t doing so well. OJ has been left to run it by himself and is having to make ends meet by selling off some of his prized horses to the neighbouring western-themed attraction Jupiter’s Claim. Jupiter’s Claim is a tongue-in-cheek western attraction owned and operated by former child star Ricky “Jupe” Park and his family.
After a failed attempt on set, the sale of a horse and an uncomfortable ride back to the ranch we get our first quick glimpse into what is happening on Haywood ranch. Otis Snr’s horse Ghost is spooked and ends up in the corral late at night. OJ goes to calm it down when the horse jumps the fence and bolts. A masterful moment of visual and auditory overload later, and we see something ever so quickly shoot across the night sky.
Kaluuya and Palmer have the perfect chemistry as siblings OJ and Emerald and portray those prickly love-filled moments that can both bring you together and tear you apart that anyone with a sibling knows all to well. They are portrayed so completely different, yet at those moments where a brother/sister response is warranted, they are on point. Those moments were some of the best of the film.
Nope takes inspiration from such a vast array of films it is hard to explain, and took me some time of reflection to truly understand and appreciate what it was that I experienced. The way in which Peele has built the tension of Nope reminded me of movies like Jaws or even Signs. Little snippets of what was going on were perfectly edited together with a booming score to accompany.
While I didn’t get a lot of undertones to the movie or social narration I have been told Peele is noted for, Nope, with all its intrigue and mystery, has a simple message at its core. Humanities need to see something out of the norm. The crazier, the better, and our need to somehow monetise it, even if it is at someone else’s peril. We either like to watch or like to make sure someone is watching.
Once again, Jordan Peele has a hit on his hands. The cast though relatively small, are interwoven seamlessly and bounce off each other with ease. Visually stunning, we are drawn not only to what we see but also what we don’t see, paired with a score that will leave you guessing what is coming next. Though strangely paced, to begin with, Nope builds upon its timing to bring a final act worthy of any big budget sci-fi movies with much more experienced directors at the helm.
Though an unexpected surprise overall, Nope does have one section that has left me with questions. Jupe’s early days as a child actor were part of an old western and a TV sitcom called Gordy’s Home. A play on some of those old ’80s/ 90’s sitcoms like Webster. Gordy was the show’s star but Gordy was played by a trained chimpanzee. Gordy is seen in the opening shots, having attacked and killed some of the show’s humans.
While a lot of what is shown and flashed back to surrounding Jupe is tied up by the end, it could have been left on the cutting room floor. Maybe I am missing an important piece of the puzzle here, and I am ok with that.
Nope is an unexpected twist on the sci-fi genre and has its roots in such a wide variety of movie tropes, yet it seamlessly pulls them together. With plenty of tension built and questions asked some relatable comedic moments had the theatre erupting with laughter.
Nope is releasing in Australia from 11.08.2022 thanks to Universal Australia.
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