Nope is the third feature film release from writer/director Jordan Peele. Following on from his smash hits Get Out and Us, this time Peele ventures into sci-fi with a plot featuring an extra-terrestrial in the Californian countryside. The end result is both brilliant and incredibly frustrating and is by far the most conflicting film I’ve seen this year.
Nope follows the Haywood family who own a horse ranch in the wilds of California. Father Otis Senior (Keith David) is training a horse for a film studio when he’s struck and killed by a coin falling from the sky. Son OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) inherits the business and 6 months later he’s on set to shoot a commercial with his sister Emerald (Keke Palmer) and horse Lucky for cinematography Antlers Holst (Michael Wincott). The shoot goes awry and on the trip home, it’s revealed that OJ has had to sell most of his horses to a local western theme park called Jupiter’s Claim run by Ricky Park (Steven Yeun). While OJ has dreams of buying back his horses, Ricky instead offers to buy the family ranch which Emerald encourages OJ to accept.
Later that evening back on the ranch, OJ and Emerald experience issues with their electricity and something spooks their horses into behaving oddly and running away. When attempting to track down the horses, OJ spots what looks like a UFO in the sky near their home. The next day the siblings decide to capitalise on the UFO sighting to achieve fame, and with the help of local tech employee Angel (Brandon Perea) they set up surveillance cameras on the ranch. However, when their scheme doesn’t go to plan, they involve cinematographer Holst to try and get the perfect shot. Meanwhile, theme park owner Ricky has his own plans for their visitor.
Nope starts off well with an opening scene that I won’t spoil here but is one that is rather disturbing, intriguing and yet seemingly irrelevant to the film I thought I was there to see. It then follows on with the very tense scene showing Otis Senior being struck by flying metal objects. What soon becomes obvious as the action progresses is that these two opening scenes very accurately summarise the polarising themes and plots that run throughout this entire film.
On the one hand, Nope is an incredibly terrifying and well-executed sci-fi horror that had me on the edge of my seat. Every scene featuring the extra-terrestrial, at least until the final act, was tense and full of suspense and it was helped by the very fitting score that suited the genre to a tee. There was more than one moment where I was genuinely terrified and it’s in these scenes that I found how appropriate the film’s title really is. I had questioned this originally as it seemed a bit silly, but actually, the use of “nope” throughout the film is both funny and very fitting, definitely echoing the reaction I’d had myself. The cast is fantastic and while Palmer’s character is a little irksome at times, the rest of the characters are engaging and there are some like Angel and Holst that I would’ve liked to have seen more of.
The mid-way twist about the extra-terrestrial is genius and not one I had expected, although I did feel like this was spoiled slightly by the big reveal in the final act and the ending itself. Without giving anything away, the reveal about the UFO’s appearance to me didn’t look or feel right and lacked the horror I would’ve expected, and it made for a rather underwhelming end to an otherwise exciting final act.
My biggest frustration with Nope is the sheer number of scenes that feel irrelevant, unnecessary, or just don’t make sense in line with the overall plot. The scenes with Gordy’s Home and Ricky Park are intriguing and rather creepy but they’re superfluous to the rest of the plot and there are several scenes also following in a similar vein. While every scene is well written and the script is undoubtedly intelligent and witty, these scenes just seem to detract from the suspense that the UFO scenes build and result in a marked dip especially early on.
I may be in the minority, but I actually preferred Nope over Get Out, and felt it was almost on par with Us. It’s a very good, clever film but I just feel very frustrated and conflicted over the negatives. Had it not been for these this would be a truly phenomenal sci-fi horror that I’d struggle to fault.
A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!