18 April 2024
From Nope

Film Review – Nope (2022)

Daring, provocative, thoughtful, and probing are words that have already been thrown at the career of Jordan Peele thus far, one that’s still in its relative infancy but has seen him build up a huge legion of fans already. Coming through with as much confidence and panache as a filmmaker making his 20th film, Peele joins a list of filmmakers this side of the 21st century to strike big and fast in such a short space of time with both Get Out and Us becoming huge successes and landing him his first Oscar for the former’s brilliant original screenplay. His grasp on the current state of the world revolving around politics, racial injustice, social inequality, and much more has helped his films become more than the sum of their parts, utilising the horror genre in much the same way as Ari Aster, Jennifer Kent and Robert Eggers have in recent years, and their talents have struck chords with audiences worldwide.

For his latest endeavour, Nope, Peele continues his trajectory into the stratosphere of the modern filmmaker apex. While he is quick to play down his influence on both genre and cinema, there’s no arguing the impact and his third film is both the biggest of his career and perhaps his most potent given all the talk of Tinseltown in the last couple of weeks, but more on that as we go. For now, Nope takes place in the outskirts of California on a ranch belonging to Haywood’s Hollywood Horses, one that provides magnificent steeds for the top brass of the silver screen. After a horrific event, siblings OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) and Em (Keke Palmer) reconnect after years apart and begin to notice something awry that is seemingly affecting both their horses and the surrounding area, including Jupiter’s Claim, a local western-themed park run by Ricky Park (Steven Yeun), a former child television star. Soon, they discover that this isn’t simply a case of the weather or some sort of sickness but something different, something not of this world that could threaten their way of life.

So, yes, it’s about aliens and the human race’s reaction to such an event but Peele isn’t just concerned with bringing his own slant on Independence Day and others from the sub-genre: it’s his base point for another piercing, astute and biting piece of satire and commentary. From the outset, it’s clear he wants to give his thoughts on the current state of cinema itself, how spectacle – in shape, form, size, and budget – is literally suffocating the life out of the medium (Yipee for capitalism) with audiences now drawn more to the bigger, the all-encompassing rather those that shoot smaller. 

Of course, spectacle is good in breathing life into the art form – he cites Jaws, Alien, and many others as his inspiration for the way he made Nope – and his combination of the two is expertly handled. Indeed, while it’s a critique it’s also a celebration of the power of the moving image, using the influence of Eadweard Muybridge’s The Horse in Motion as its touchstone for both how it can transport us to different parts of life, whether our own or indeed to a place of fantasy and to shine a light on a part of black history long forgotten. 

Nope is the kind of movie that will be up for debate for weeks, months, even years after its release this week (it’s opened in the US already) and such are the stars he is shooting for it automatically makes it so. A cautionary fable about the monopolies of Hollywood, why cinema is as important now as it ever has been as well as embracing and showcasing the frustrations, anger, and resentments that have formed in the last few decades across the globe that are fuelling unrest, Peele’s third film is as intoxicating his previous two while being its own spectacular beast. And we can’t wait to see what comes next.

★★★★


Sci-Fi, Horror | 2022 | Universal Pictures UK | Dir: Jordan Peele | Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun, Michael Wincott, Brandon Perea, Keith David


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