After directing films like Get Out and Us and producing the Candyman reboot, Jordan Peele has taken modern horror in an outstanding new direction. That’s why his latest film, Nope, has had moviegoers excited leading up to its release. The advertising for Nope was extremely secretive in order to create an extra amount of buzz and intrigue, but does the movie live up to all that hype? Let’s take a closer look at all the footage to see for sure.
This review contains heavy spoilers for the movie Nope.
Nope takes ideas from pre-existing science fiction and horror stories and adds its own unique spin on them, which leads to something surprisingly creative and original. It’s safe to assume that most people would be able to imagine a generic, stereotypical flying saucer spaceship. This movie uses that design, but surprises its audience by making that the alien itself instead of the ship. That leads to several other intriguing ideas to be used, like the alien spitting out the inorganic material it doesn’t want to eat like coins, keys, and statues, that provide a threat of being rained on my objects falling from the sky, and electricity powering down when it’s near so it’s hard to be captured on camera. The film is filled with brilliant ideas that make it stand out from other movies in the genre.
There is plenty to be scared of in this horror flick, like an alien using Earth as its feeding ground and a showbiz monkey going bananas and killing and brutally injuring people. However, what truly makes it great horror is the unsettling atmosphere and feeling of suspense throughout. Sure, the more action-oriented scenes of OJ and Emerald trying to take down the alien are filled with suspense, especially since the movie makes it clear that absolutely anything could happen next, but there is also an uneasiness to the tone of the film. There’s a feeling of dread that lingers over the movie that only classic horror has otherwise truly captured. This is all thanks to the topic of “bad miracles” that’s discussed during the movie and seen in a few different moments. Strange, unbelievable, terrible things can happen to people when they’re least expecting it, and that can be disturbing to think about.
Jordan Peele tends to include clever themes and symbolism in his movies, and Nope is no different. Nope focuses on the idea that people go to great and often dangerous lengths for a bit of fame and attention. We see this with the “Gordy’s Home” flashbacks in which an innocent chimp that’s been forced into the spotlight to be used for our entertainment snaps and attacks people. That reflects the main plot of the alien being used as an attraction at Jupe’s theme park, and eventually switches from eating horses to eating people when it’s fed up with how much it’s being harmed and mistreated. Characters go to great lengths to get views on their TV show, bring in customers to their theme park, and bring attention to their horse ranch, and they risk it all to do so. Similarly, in real life, people dance on train tracks or jump off cliffs into bodies of water to get attention online. Peele turns that idea into something scary and interesting without it being too obvious like in some other modern horror flicks.
The cinematography and directing used throughout the film is breathtaking. The shots of the vast landscapes are absolutely beautiful. The shots used in the western theme park are filled with an outstanding attention to detail and still focus on exactly what is wanted to be seen. Most successful of all is the use of camera angles to see just enough of something to make it scary, whether it be a blood-covered chimp approaching a child or an alien peeking out from behind the clouds. This is probably Peele’s best-shot film.
Each of the performances are phenomenal. Daniel Kaluuya, Steven Yeun, and others play characters different from what we’ve seen them play before, but manage to make each of them feel like real life people. The performance that completely steals the show, though, is Keke Palmer. She plays Emerald Haywood, who is extremely charismatic and has a couple of long monologues, and she absolutely brings it. The cast is nothing short of incredible here.
This may be a science fiction horror movie with creative ideas and unique elements, but it’s also a monster movie, and the monster is fantastic. Not only is the design of Jean Jacket brilliantly based on the classic image of a UFO, but we also learn quite a bit about how he works. We learn about his motives, how he eats, and some of his abilities like creating a cloud in front of him as camouflage or transforming. This movie is a lot like Jaws, but using a monster in the sky instead of the ocean, and what’s Jaws without its shark? That’s where this flying UFO monster nicknamed Jean Jacket comes in, allowing Nope to rise in the ranks of great monster movies.
A slow burn can be great and can add a lot of suspense to horror films especially. However, there are moments throughout Nope that feel like a little too much of a slow burn. There are a couple of shots that linger on characters just sort of staring in the distance that last just a bit too long. Where some of the best scenes are filled with suspense, it makes the slower scenes feel even slower. This can sometimes hurt that suspense and excitement.
The monster, Jean Jacket, is eventually revealed to be able to transform. His true form looks incredible. Plus, transforming when he’s truly fed up with the Haywoods makes him feel even angrier and more threatening. That being said, where his transformation isn’t foreshadowed or hinted at, it feels really random that he’d be able to transform at all. We see his skin crack at one point when he’s injured, but that’s not quite the same thing. The sudden transformation didn’t feel as needed right at the end of the movie, but it was at least a cool design.
The subplot focusing on the chimp named Gordy is one of the scariest elements of the movie, is very entertaining, and further drives home the main theme of the story, but it’s just a little too disconnected from the central plot. Sure, it plays a lot into Jupe’s backstory and his current-day motivation which is likely what brought the alien to this specific part of Earth, but the main plot never quite goes back to it enough. It also feels like the alien didn’t need a reason to be near this ranch outside of coincidence. Him coming to Earth to eat is reason enough. This doesn’t hurt the movie much since this subplot does give us a solid explanation to things, is entertaining to watch, and gives us one of the most interesting examples of a “bad miracle.” It’s just rather noticeable how disjointed the two plotlines are while watching them.
Nope is a welcome addition to the vast library of monster movies. It’s quite nice to be able to see a good monster movie be made as a modern blockbuster. It’s a creative and thrilling tale that is definitely worth seeing on the big screen. There are a few things holding it back from being as great as it could be, though, but that’s okay. Everything doesn’t need to be perfect. If you’re seeking a well-made film with terrific horror and science fiction elements that actually has something to say, then Nope is exactly what you’re looking for.