Despite knowing how crazy talented and funny Jordan Peele is, having been a huge fan of the Key and Peele (2012-2015) sketch show, and seeing what amazing things he did with his take on The Twilight Zone (2019-2020), I still foolishly assumed that Get Out – his 2017 feature length film directorial debut – was probably a flash in the pan. A movie so good, that came at such a perfect time, there was no way he could strike that magic again.
Then, in 2019, he created Us. A film so achingly haunting that despite only seeing it twice, I still find myself thinking about it at random moments, weeks, months, even years later. And while Us was terrifying in parts, it still had the same humour and commonality I loved so much about Get Out.
So, when I first saw the trailer for Peele’s latest outing, Nope, it’s safe to say that I was epically excited, I could not wait! … and he did not disappoint.
Written, directed and produced by Peele, Nope is his foray into the alien genre and this film is instantly up there with the likes of Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), and John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982). But what Nope has that those movies lacked, is Peele’s empathic storytelling that enables him to seamlessly intertwine natural comedic moments with heart-stopping frights into a visually stunning mosaic of the human condition.
Scary things can be funny, we laugh when we’re nervous, we say “Nope!” when shit starts to get out of hand.
The audience can so fully connect with the realness of the characters in this film, that the U.F.O (or U.A.P – unidentified aerial phenomenon – as we’re supposed to call them now) premise seems completely natural. Peele’s characters respond to their situation the way you’d imagine you and your friends would.
They’re heroes because they are real people.
Speaking of characters, Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out, Black Panther, Judas, and the Black Messiah) pulls off another impressive turn under Peele’s direction playing Otis “OJ” Haywood. He’s a true cowboy, just in Timberlands – he’s brooding, rough but gentle, and doesn’t say a lot (well not with his voice anyway).
Keke Palmer (Hustlers) brings the vibrance and energy playing Kaluuya’s sister Emerald “Em” Haywood. The connection between Keke and Daniel as brother and sister is pure, reminding me of my relationship with my own big brother – not always smooth sailing, but the waves that sent us up and down ultimately brought us closer. I think many siblings will see themselves when watching these two.
Daniel and Keke are supported by stellar performances from Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead, Minari) as Ricky “Jupe” Park, a former child actor and owner/creator of the theme park “Jupiter’s Claim”, Brandon Perea as Angel Torres, a tech salesman at Fry’s Electronics, and Oz Perkins (credited as Osgood Perkins) as Fynn Bachman.
The film has been characterised as containing themes related to spectacle and exploitation. GQ‘s Gerrick D. Kennedy wrote that Nope “is a movie about spectacle. More specifically, our addiction to spectacle […] Nope is about holding a mirror up to all of us and our inability to look away from drama or peril.”
Writer-director Jordan Peele was partly inspired to write Nope by the COVID-19 lockdowns and the “endless cycle of grim, inescapable tragedy” in 2020.
For me, the film is about nature, about our connection to the land and the animals we are so closely related to, and yet so far removed from. It is about the human need to tame the wild – when we know full well the wild can never truly be tamed.
You’ll notice I haven’t written anything about the plot. Why would I want to spoil that for you?
Trust me, you will not be disappointed if you see Nope, in fact, for weeks, and months, and even years afterwards, you’ll be thinking about it and looking to the sky.