By: Amanda Guarragi
Jordan Peele’s third feature film dives deep into sci-fi and he combines conventions to make this a unique film. Nope is different from his previous two films and it’s because he dials down on the complexity of social constructs plaguing our society. The story is a bit simpler and Peele focused on the grand scale of extraterrestrial life forms. In a way, Peele explores the food chain differently, and how animals are probed, tested, and trained to be something they’re not. It’s the expectation of a certain creature versus the reality of who, or rather, what they are. Peele did something different and original in the sci-fi genre, and he should be praised based on originality alone.
After random objects falling from the sky result in the death of their father, ranch-owning siblings OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald Haywood (Keke Palmer) attempt to capture video evidence of an unidentified flying object with the help of tech salesman Angel Torres (Brandon Perea) and documentarian Antlers Hols (Michael Wincott). The story is quite simple and instead of telling a complex, layered, and symbolic story like his previous two films, Peele kept it at the surface. That’s not such a bad thing when the direction and camerawork carried the movie through those suspenseful moments. Peele and cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema kept the audience on their toes with the placement of the camera. The images within the frame and how the camera moved during certain moments made the audience feel like they were in the movie.
What was so fascinating about Nope was the unidentified flying object in the film. Peele combined the matriarchial figure with the vehicle of the flying object to make that third act reveal beautiful to watch. Sure, it was a bit anticlimactic because he decided not to show much, but the story centred on capturing this phenomenon on film. It wasn’t about what the antagonist was doing, but rather showing how humans react to the unknown. Humans can be deceitful, understanding, or violent when it comes to other life forms, which also parallels their treatment of animals to a certain degree. Peele set that up in the first half, and the five-part structure with the names of each horse they had at the ranch was a nice way to divide what was happening.
Nope is a visual feast meant to be watched on an IMAX screen. Peele’s direction and van Hoytema’s cinematography make for sure a visually interesting journey through the west. Keke Palmer is the shining star of the film, while Daniel Kaluuya takes a reserved backseat for this one. In a way, they both complimented each other and they created one of my favourite sibling dynamics. Even though the story is a bit generic and the characters are a bit underdeveloped, you can still have fun diving into unknown territory with Peele. Lastly, the score by Michael Abels was really strong and amplified the tension on screen. The sound design also allowed for those jump scares to hit at the right moments as well. Peele is one of the few directors who knows how to hit those comedic beats right after some heavy scenes.