Title: Nope (2022) Director: Jordan Peele Writer: Jordan Peele Stars: Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Brandon Perea, Michael Wincott, Steven Yeun, Keith David
Jordan Peele’s new movie Nope is a refreshing new take on the UFO genre. As with Get Out and Us, Peele continues to challenge the viewer’s pre-conceived notions of what kind of movie they are going to watch. Is this sci-fi, horror or some kind of offbeat western? Mulder and Scully would have a field day!
Nope is weird from the get-go: First, we face an Old Testament quote about spectacle and God’s punishment followed by a terrifying and surreal opening scene where a chimpanzee with a party hat brutally massacres the cast of a ’90s sitcom on set. No explanation. No apparent connection to what is to come.
After this, we meet the Haywoods, an African American family of horse wranglers training and supplying horses for big-time Hollywood movie productions. Weird shit starts happening at their ranch in Agua Dulce, California. Strange sounds, sudden electrical shortages and worse still: the father of the family, Otis Sr. (played by Keith David), is killed by a nickel in a freak accident as metal objects suddenly fall from the sky like hail. Throughout the rest of the movie, we follow his two kids, “OJ” or Otis Jr. (played by Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald (played by Keke Palmer), as they try to deal with the extraterrestrial cause of the weird phenomena.
Nope was written and directed by Jordan Peele and produced through his production company Monkey Paw Productions which gave us Get Out and Us. Peele announced the film in 2020, stating that he wanted to make a movie that would be a spectacle, something people would have to come to see in cinemas. Peele has cited many different sources as inspiration for this movie, among them: Signs, King Kong, Jurassic Park, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Wizard of Oz and even the anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Six months later, OJ and Emerald try to fill their fathers’ shoes in the movie industry without much success. They manage to sell one of their horses to Ricky “Jupe” Park (played by Steven Yeun), a former child star who runs a Wild West theme park called “Jupiter’s Claim” near Haywood Ranch. We discover he is connected to the gruesome monkey murder scene at the movie’s start.
One evening while tracking down a spooked horse, OJ sees a UFO dart between the clouds overhead. The strange happenings around the ranch intensify as OJ and Emerald decide to invest in surveillance equipment to try to capture footage of the UFO. The tech guy that installs it for them, Angel Torres (played by Brandon Perea), is a UFO-nut and immediately takes an interest in the strange goings-on and tries to team up with the siblings. The skies overhead are continually overcast, but when they notice that one of the clouds isn’t moving, they know they’re onto something.
Peele stated he wanted to create a spectacle, and I’d say he’s succeeded at that; after the initial brutality of the opening scene, I watched the rest of the movie in a state of wonderment, not knowing what to expect. I was afraid this would be your standard UFO movie, but that’s certainly not what I got. What can I say? I love freaky shit, and this movie has a lot of it!
Mild spoilers ahead! The siblings are determined to capture the thing hiding in the clouds on film. Maybe they can make some money from it? Maybe even get on Oprah? They try to enlist Antlers Holst (played by Michael Wincott), a Hollywood cameraman known for being able to capture the impossible on camera. He says no initially, but after the wheels start to come off for the Haywoods, he changes his mind. I’m talking giant horse-swallowing tornados, the disappearance of a host of people from Jupiter’s Claim and raining blood.
Nope is a movie that explores several themes, primarily humanity’s love of spectacle and how we try to exploit it and capitalize on it. We cannot look away from drama, tragedy or spectacle. It’s also about how we deal with trauma. People react to trauma differently: OJ is a stoic introvert (perhaps traumatized by the loss of his father), seemingly more comfortable with the horses than with people. Emerald is his exact opposite: extrovert, confident and sometimes too intense. Jupe has capitalized on the tragic incident he survived as a child star, milking it for all its worth, trying to turn tragedy into success.
The simian massacre at the movie’s beginning points to an underlying theme of how we deal with what we don’t understand, the strange and the unpredictable. How we, in our hubris, sometimes don’t understand the danger we’re in before it’s too late and the feeling of stark terror when we finally realize it.
There are so many things about Nope I’d like to write more about, but that would entail some pretty heavy spoilers. What unfolds at the end of the movie is pretty intense. Some might be bewildered, and some might not like it, but I sure as hell loved the sublime terror of the end sequence. Are you sure you’re watching a UFO movie at all?
There was precious little I disliked about this movie, as I feel it gave me more than I bargained for and expected. Of all of Peele’s movies I’ve watched, this is the one I think I like the best, even though I think the other ones are excellent. Nope might be his most experimental film, mixing humor, reflection and eerie extraterrestrial otherness.
If you like Peele’s other movies or are a fan of thrilling movies about extraterrestrial threats, I think you’ll enjoy this move. It is full of freaky shit, tension, atmosphere, and exciting plot twists. As I stated initially: a fresh take on the UFO genre! Or was it? Was it really a UFO movie at all? See it, and keep your eyes Peeled!