‘Nope’ Is An Out-Of-This-World Spectacle [Review]

Nope Jordan Peele

This Nope review is spoiler-free. 

As a kid, nothing scared me more than aliens. The idea that extraterrestrial beings could be lurking in our skies filled me with so much existential dread. While I’ve since grown out of the fear (mostly), Jordan Peele’s alien Western Nope brought me back to my adolescence, when I would anxiously cower under my covers, looking to the skies in search of UFOs. 

Nope takes place on the Haywood Hollywood Ranch where Otis, Jr., or OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) is trying to run the family business. His sister Emerald (Keke Palmer), a vape-sucking, fast-talking lesbian who tries to help but her precocious behavior gets them in more trouble. Meanwhile, OJ sells horses to keep the ranch afloat to former child actor Ricky Park (Steven Yeun) who now runs the Wild West theme park, Jupiter’s Claim. 

One night, a strange phenomenon comes out of the sky and sucks up one of their horses. A shadow of a flying saucer then soars behind the clouds, quickly establishing that there is definitely something extraterrestrial happening here. As OJ explains to his sister what exactly he saw, she convinces him to embark on a quest to capture the first credible evidence of aliens and sell it for a fortune. 

Here, Peele begins exploring what it means to record something and the emphasis placed on visual evidence. There are whispers of found footage as tech guy Angel (Brandon Perea) installs their security camera and realizes what exactly they’re looking for. He then starts monitoring the camera from his laptop. Computer screens full of night vision and monitors of surveillance footage appear in the frame for much of the film’s back half. This layering of footage creates an interesting sub-narrative about the discussions of why phenomena haven’t been captured on film before. 

As Nope continues, it evolves into a narrative that, while contained to the dusty California gulch, takes on a grander scale than what Peele has made in the past. A tense first half moves into more of a traditional monster movie that still has you on the edge of your seat. There are also some particularly violent and upsetting moments that the camera sadly cuts away from too soon. These scenes feel overly sanitized, avoiding the gore that would deliver an even bigger punch. 

Peele is, as always, balancing a lot of stories and ideas here, which all come through for the most part. The biggest issue comes when giving context to fully explain what’s happening at the ranch. Some rather crucial bits of information are delivered in throwaway lines or obscure scenes that are never addressed again. Instead, Peele seems to hope we connect the dots. He puts a lot of faith in his audience, which is admirable, but perhaps it’s a bit too much faith. 

But these narrative struggles are eclipsed by performances by Kaluuya, Palmer, and Perea as our alien-hunting trio. Kaluuya is a stoic and focused cowboy, a man of few words and cutting facial expressions. That’s contrasted with Palmer’s brightly colored and enthusiastic Emerald who couldn’t be more different than her older brother. Kaluuya and Palmer’s chemistry makes them feel like bickering siblings who dearly love each other when they piss each other off. Their chemistry makes the stakes feel even higher for Nope. 

Perea holds his own with Kaluuya and Palmer, providing much of the humor as the nerdy IT guy, but he’s never ridiculed. He’s on the same playing field as OJ and Emerald; they all just want answers. Perea balances terror and comedy so well that he perhaps has the best performance of the entire film. 

Overall, Nope is a film where people of color take centerstage while white characters are secondary. And Peele isn’t trying to necessarily make an in-world point with this. Rather, he’s illustrating how big-budget horror can in fact be led by predominantly Black, Latinx, and Asian actors and still deliver the same effect as any other white-led horror. 

Nope is perhaps Peele’s most entertaining film. Where Get Out and Us were a bit more cerebral, Nope is Peele’s response to bigger budget science fiction with an emphasis on spectacle above all else. That doesn’t mean Nope is without its own complexities, especially when it comes to interspecies conflict. This is an entertaining, thrilling, and just plain fun Western alien movie that only further solidifies Peele as a modern master of the genre and its many forms.



‘Nope’ is an entertaining, thrilling, and just plain fun Western alien that further solidifies Jordan Peele as a modern master of the genre and its many forms.



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