July 18, 2022

GENRE | Death from Above – Jordan Peele Invades 'Nope'

"What's a bad miracle?"
Daniel Kaluuya Keke Palmer Brandon Perea | Jordan Peele's Nope
Universal Pictures / Monkeypaw Productions
Get Out writer/director Jordan Peele continues his string of socially conscious cinematic experiences told through elevated horror genre conventions in his third feature, the ambitious UFO spectacle Nope. Peele employs clever sci-fi thriller flourishes to express scenes of truly nightmarish terror that interrogate the power and control of the captured images we consume every day as disposable entertainment without much further thought.

Reteaming with his muse Daniel Kaluuya, Nope is told so confidentially with a deliberately slow burn buildup that's actually more entertaining than its extended action-packed final act. Kaluuya quietly holds the screen with an assured captivation, an unspoken charisma, and sparse display of visible emotions in the face of some wild occurrences.

A very outspoken Keke Palmer hilariously co-stars as Kaluuya's self-promoting sister as the siblings inherit their father's downtrodden Hollywood horse ranch after a mysterious freak accident puts a literal cloud of suspicion over their remote California desert town. Steven Yeun and Brandon Perea also appear in fun roles as key figures drawn to the ranch's mysterious connection to certain hidden threatening objects that appear in the sky over their shared property.

Peele incorporates the early history of analogue moving or motion picture technology into his contemporary sci-fi western about possible alien abductions. His self-referential meta-commentary is less layered than in previous efforts but pulls in some Spielbergarian touches (think Jaws meets Close Encounters of the Third Kind in the style of M. Night Shyamalan's Signs) to draw us in. Cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema helps make Nope Peele's most visually ambitious film yet with an expressive splendour seen on the screen captured on through large-format film stock.

Nope is a disruptive yet chilling blockbuster ride of wry devastation about monetizing trauma and animal exploitation within a capitalist structure. Peele's mastery of horror tropes and clever humour make his thrilling sequences of monster-type action entertaining in its visual artistry. Finally, how the film's knowing title is constantly employed and spoken by its characters is one of the funnier, more satisfying recurring motifs that effectively breaks the tension every time it's exclaimed.


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