Nope (2022)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB

USA, 2022. , . Screenplay by Jordan Peele. Cinematography by . Produced by , Jordan Peele. Music by . Production Design by . Costume Design by . Film Editing by .

A series of increasingly mysterious sequences lead us into a world of terror in this latest hybrid of science-fiction, horror and, still present but less so than in his previous two films, social commentary from writer/director Jordan Peele.

A commercial is being shot on a soundstage and features the presence of a horse, its taciturn trainer () wrangling the animal after a mysterious accident involving objects falling from the sky killed his veteran Hollywood animal trainer father (). Kaluuya’s chatty, effervescent sister () acts as the public face of their business, which has seen better days and has required them to sell a number of their horses to a nearby wild west-themed amusement park run by a former child star (), whose experiences on a nineties sitcom included a tragedy involving a renegade chimpanzee co-star.

Lonely nights out on the siblings’ vast, sprawling ranch are spent under an ominous sky whose vague, existential threat becomes a real and solid one when Kaluuya notices a very large object moving among the clouds. Palmer wants to film the phenomenon and enlists the help of an electronics store tech operative () and a grizzled, celebrated cinematographer () to capture the images of what they assume is an alien spaceship, believing that a credible, clear shot of it will solve all their financial woes. As they work towards their goal, however, the true nature of what they are dealing with, and its connection to the people around them, reveals itself to be much more horrifying than they ever thought it would be.

Peele has concocted another highly original plot that never succumbs to tired mainstream blockbuster tropes, even the excitement of the action-packed climax doesn’t descend into a violent battle, but it does feel as if a lot of dots that should connect the many powerful, separate elements of his film have been sacrificed to the need to give the impression of a bountiful imagination.

The sequences involving flashbacks to Yeun’s sitcom are among the most brilliantly directed in the film, but the enigma of their connection to the main action is too obscure, it’s fine that Peele doesn’t want to spell things out for us but a few breadcrumbs to lead us somewhere wouldn’t ruin the experience either.

Other revelations feel convenient more than clever or shocking, while thankless cameos from the likes of David and feel like the result of last minute rewrites rather than opportunities for famous faces to provide small but pointed moments.

The visual effects veer between the spectacular (the alien object) and the somewhat undercooked (the chimp), but the elements that do work are all fascinating and fiery, particularly the unsettling combination of Spielbergian wonder with near-Human Centipede-level grotesquerie (of which I wish there was so much more).

Enlivened by wonderful performances and held together with magnificent cinematography and a rich and invigorating musical score, the very desire that Peele has to create something that is the inverse experience of a superhero movie is enough to make this one of the most memorable summer movies of recent years, and none of its flaws alter the fact that it is well worth seeing.

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