Nope is a masterclass in filmmaking that comes off as a sci-fi horror Hitchcock-inspired love letter that is given the reality and movement to breathe in the presence of a novella. Peele continues to amaze and leave his stamp on the horror genre while also elevating the screenplay.
It’s noticeable that he deconstructs the preconception of acquiring the perfect shot in the eye of the beholder or a director as an auteur. At the same time, raising themes of childhood acting irony, hubris, and misrepresentation, eventually bleed into the themes of isolation, claustrophobia, the bone-chilling sensation of being watched, and the tragedy of the viewer taking note when the subject stares back.
Without diving into spoilers, I need to address that the trailers are a tad bit misleading and shake off the tone while sheltering the audience from the genuine hostility and gore of the film. From the first second, Nope begins, Peele has already entranced you with stunning camera work. Fluid movement helps give off the sensation and tone of someone observing and documenting. Almost in many ways, the narrative and performance of the cast mirror Peele’s style as a director, and then for a time, the subplots evolve into mini-character studies. All build to a choice of human flaws, and the curious imperfections that plague us are put on full display.
In addition, to the multiple themes and underlying guilt haunting the cast, one element worthy of praise is the range of performances and variety each actor channels. For example, Keke Palmer felt like the film’s comedic relief for a time, but as the plot advances, you can see she’s the film’s heart. Still, Peele peels back the joy and shows the audience she’s broken, and she imagines her home as a prison which she longs to be free from.
Another principle the Nope toys and dangles in front of the viewer is the influx of technology and age disparity – generational differences are fully displayed between her and her brother OJ (Daniel Kaluuya). Kaluuya is seen as defeated and undervalued, and the first opening scene establishes that faux stigma, but in all truth, the reason for the way he is due to the horror he observes. Peele pulls off his Psycho shower moment, which burdens Kaluuya with a sudden transition of being locked into a transfer of power symbolic of the pain he harbors, building the foundation of his stalwart nature.
And this is where Nope works as a whole because of the execution of balancing darker, Hitchcock, and placement blocking to the simple mystery and docile fear of Twilight Zone. I feel that the vignette style of editing does give freedom for the screenplay to come off as akin to an unreliable narrator. For a time, Nope juggles multiple tropes because it’s a horror film at times. At other moments, it’s an alien thriller. Then it’s a question of finding yourself and shedding the weight of parental legacy, but it felt like everything was necessary upon completion.
Of course, Peele does enjoy playing with the concept of red herrings, and the film does have a little if you notice closely. Other times you can see the narrative trope of characters being written from inception, foreshadowing their downfall. However, Nope thrives on its visuals and will keep the audience glued to the screen, so if you have a chance, see this film on the biggest screen possible, preferably IMAX, because Peele uses every ounce and drop of the $68 million dollar budget.
Treading back to characters who play a somewhat pivotal role is Steven Yeun, who portrays a child actor named Jupe Park, now grown and trying to retain any semblance of fame, and in a way does feel allegorical to the flaw of greed and hubris. And upon closer inspection of the small theme park Jupiters Claim, one can notice it’s a troubling reflection of the satirical lifestyle Jupe once remembered. Only now, he’s profiting off his trauma, and Nope does not adhere or hold back on filtering out the sequences of memory and the pain afflicted by consequence, the ones that sting the most and don’t ever leave us.
One clear thing is that this will be a film that will be debated or discussed as the years pass. Peele crafts a mirror reflection that flaunts our flaws of being human while the audience or, in this case, someone watches and observes. In another way, many could say Nope is a modern-day re-telling of the iconic Twilight Zone episode “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street”, in which at the time, the moral conveyed through the narrative was fear can turn human beings into monsters.
Now in the case of Nope, Jordan Peele takes that message forward by deconstructing another element of being human while showing the brutality and misguided nature and how feeble many could perceive us. While we’re staring out into the unknown due to the seduction of curiosity about what’s truly beyond our reach, Nope juxtaposes the impending fear of what happens when our joy turns into pain.
Jordan Peele continues his hot streak with another masterpiece that stands perfectly next to Us and Get Out in his film library.
Nope is simply intense, thrilling, and suspenseful while questioning the lengths and norms one will go to achieve the perfect shot, even though perfection is unattainable.
A solid display of filmmaking that questions the intrigue and spectacle of never being satisfied, the discomfort of being observed for sport, and the reaction when the camera stops rolling and the 4th wall breaks. The reactional backlash and the choice we had to live with.
Jordan Peele is incredible and Nope earns an out-of-this-world 9/10 rating.
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