Rating: 3.5 / 5
Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun
Director: Jordan Peele
Running Time: 130 mins
Genre: Sci-fi, Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Review by: Alex Moss
Released: 14th November 2022
Format: DVD | Blu-ray
Nope is the third feature film from Jordan Peele after his staggering debut Get Out and his impressive follow-up Us. As with his previous two ventures Nope is a film only possible through Peele’s lens. A film seemingly about one thing but in actual fact about so much more.
When his father is killed by unexplained falling debris, OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) must take over the family ranch which supplies horses to Hollywood. His sister Emerald (Keke Palmer) comes to assist but before long the siblings realise something is not right on the ranch. The horses are spooked, there are strange sounds coming from all around and something mysterious seems to be afoot.
To say too much more about Nope’s plot would be to spoil it, it is a film best seen with as little knowledge about it as possible. It is therefore unfortunate the marketing people decided to give away certain key ‘spoilers’ in the trailer. Suffice to say this is a quintessential Peele flick. Seeped in mystery and wonder with scenes sometimes so unsettling you find yourself edging closer and closer to a fetal position, it is engrossing.
Peele has made it clear he wanted to make a film about spectacle. About a sense of wonder and some of the set pieces here absolutely nail this. This is the film equivalent of people watching YouTube clips of 9/11 on repeat. That strange human instinct to be fascinated by the inevitable disaster we see unfolding before our very eyes. If Don’t Look Up was the political satire version of that story, Nope is the horror film equivalent.
In one subplot, arguably the most engrossing and powerful of the film, an ‘80s TV show goes horribly wrong as the star of the show, a chimpanzee called Gordy, is startled and runs riot, maiming and killing cast, crew and audience in a frenzy. It is in these flashbacks that Peele’s message is writ large; tearing our eyes away from horror is difficult, it possesses an addictive quality of which few other genres can muster. In another scene OJ enters a dark barn only to find himself being stalked by something and his instinct is to both run but also film the event on his phone.
And this is where Peele’s film excels. It is utterly captivating, in ways that make you want to utter the film’s title as an almost reflex to seeing something we are traumatized by. In fact that instinct is so palpable that Peele uses it as a darkly comedic undercurrent throughout. Every time one of the characters sees something awful they utter the word ‘nope’ and slowly back away, eyes rarely leaving the harrowing scene before them. It is here that Peele’s thesis really comes to life, in exploring that modern need to bear witness to something, to capture it in a digital way as evidence we didn’t just see it, we have actual documented proof we were there.
But, and this is a first for Peele, the film often feels like it’s trying to do too much all at once. Through his Twilight Zone eyes there are metaphors a plenty but by the end some of the seeds of ideas have been left by the wayside. As such there are times when the film drags a little. By the end you’re left breathless but also slightly empty. That is a first for Peele who for the most part has left his audiences gasping. However, and this cannot be stated enough, it is a film that plants seeds the likes of which most blockbusters don’t dare.
Nope is a film of incredible visual prowess and one so rife with ideas it often overburdens itself. However, it percolates in the mind and the more it does the more you realise you might have witnessed something truly remarkable.
Nope is available now on DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K UHD from Universal.