If there has been one movie this year that has impacted me, my love for film and sparked a sense of wonder and awe that I hadn’t felt in a while, it is Jordan Peele’s third entry, ‘NOPE‘. Following the massive successes of both ‘Get Out‘ and ‘Us‘, two movies that glued me to the screen and kept me thinking and evaluating their respective themes, ‘NOPE‘ comes along as not only a continuation of that but also an expansion. Yes, the budget is higher and the scope is infinitely bigger but thematically, this is his most ambitious work yet. If I had to describe this movie in one word, ambitious is really the perfect word. Visually, ‘NOPE‘ is in my opinion the best-looking movie of the year, (both because of the cast and the filmmaking). Not only that but this is a movie that has so much to say, it’s intensely layered and yet miraculously it never gets muddled in the end. The bending of genre, the change in tone, the faith and trust in the audience to get what the movie is trying to say without spelling it out for them, ‘NOPE‘ is a movie that goes for it and I cannot tell you how much I love and adore it.
spoilers for ‘NOPE‘ are featured in this review.
As a Jordan Peele fan, the moment he dropped the poster with the cast, I was sold. It was a picture of a random cloud in the dead of night but I could have gone to the movies that same night if it was out. When it did eventually come out, I made sure to make an event out of it, I put on an outfit inspired by the movie, I even got a cowboy hat with me to the cinema and afterwards, I and the friend I went with did an entire photoshoot in Valletta at 1AM, it was a blast. What I will never forget about that night, however, is that as the credits started rolling, there was a moment of silence then instantly discussions arose within the audience. People started comparing it to ‘Get Out’ and ‘Us’, dissecting its themes right there and then, processing the entire thing and it filled me with such unequivocal joy. I myself spent the next few weeks looking up every interview (not only of the awesome cast) but also of Peele explaining how this movie came about, what inspired him and what his thought process was like. I can hear him speak for hours. He is not only meticulous but he draws from works that impacted him deeply and he manages to reinstall that wonder that inspired him in the movies he makes. He understands what makes a movie special. It’s actually quite infectious because I actually did some extra research myself to attempt and understand how much he drew from certain movies and how they impacted these characters and the visuals. I spent an entire week watching the movies that inspired ‘NOPE‘ such as ‘Jaws‘, ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind‘ and ‘Signs‘.
What fascinated me the most about this movie is that it actually scared me. Like comedy and most art, horror is subjective. I find that alien movies spook me the most as the horror they draw from relates to the unknown, the less I know about a horror villain, the scarier they are to me and UFOs and Aliens fall perfectly in that category. Not only that but horror movies can scare you in different ways, they can scare you in the moment, they can linger with you or they can put you right in the characters’ shoes. ‘NOPE‘ achieved the latter. I genuinely found myself terrified watching this. The entire second act was horrifying, it was an experience I will never forget. I will never forget looking over to my friend after the Gordy scene and letting out a breath of relief, I won’t forget how my jaw dropped at the sight of the people from Jupiter’s Claim getting digested in Jean Jacket’s organs, like that is going to stick in my head for a while. The scene that did it for me in terms of genuine fear however was the scene where Jean Jackets hovers over the ranch and shits blood. I remember emulating the genuine fear that Emerald and Angel were feeling and to put me in that position is genuinely remarkable. It actually kinda took me out of the movie just how immersed I was that I felt like I was in that house with them. That shot of the blood dripping down the window instantly became imprinted in my brain and that’s how I would honestly describe the movie. Visually striking but never in a shallow way. Each shot, each scare, and each joke has value to it. It’s genuinely fascinating because there’s so much going on thematically and yet it all ends up feeling cohesive, I never once felt like it was doing too much.
The beauty of Peele’s films is that there is no concrete meaning or definition to them. He opens up that conversation with the audience to spark debate and discussion. The moment the credits start rolling, you immediately want to start talking about it, it has become one of his many signature moves and it couldn’t be any more present here. ‘NOPE‘ can mean something different to so many people. I’ve seen takes that it’s about the trauma that comes with loss or that it’s about Hollywood and honestly every take I’ve seen, I can see it all in the movie. To me, the main objective of the movie is to showcase humanity, the good and the bad. It focuses on our selfish need to control, to exploit and to gaze at awful spectacles. The contrast between animals and humans was made quite strongly here. Gordy and Jean Jacket represent what happens when humans try to control nature. Whether it’s the fact that SNL made a sketch about the Gordy’s Home incident or the fact that you literally cannot look Jean Jacket in the eye because it’s to be treated like an animal, it’s all so beautifully woven, it’s the perfect web, intricate and perfectly intertwined.
One of the best discussions I’ve seen regarding this movie is about family and loss. The movie opens up with the death of Otis Sr. which leaves Haywood Hollywood Horses in shambles. It gives Emerald and Otis Jr the urgency to work together and throughout the movie, you can see their bond growing more and more. It’s crazy how dynamic the characters are because they both want to get Jean Jacket but for different reasons. Emerald wants to get proof of alien while OJ has a personal vendetta against it since it was the cause of his father’s death. The latter is done very subtly but you know it’s there. He doesn’t leave after the first encounter and given the experience he has with animals and then bringing in the natural aspects with how every animal has it’s rules, it’s essentially a cowboy versus a huge animal. Once again I cannot overstate how brilliant the writing is. The themes and elements all interconnect so beautifully, it’ss something that could’ve easily been convoluted and messy but he gets away it perfectly. It’s his most meticulous script and given that it’s also his biggest, it makes for one hell of a ride.
A review of a movie like this cannot be done without mentioning the incredible cast. 2022 has had a knack for killer casts. ‘Scream (2022)’, ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’ and now ‘NOPE‘. Daniel Kaluuya delivers a very effective and subtle performance that really makes the movie shine. OJ is not only relatable in his actions but also in his personality. I can totally see him being neurodivergent and I love that a potentially neurodivergent character is the main lead in a horror movie. Not only that but Kaluuya’s comedic timing when he locked his car door after Clover smashes through his windscreen, was golden. The electric Keke Palmer plays his counterpart sibling Emerald who in her introduction establishes her eccentric self perfectly. Throughout the movie, she delivers not only tons of charm and charisma but jokes upon jokes. Saying that a praying mantis better pray she doesn’t find it? I chuckled loudly! The ‘Akira‘ slide in the final moment of the movie? Legendary. Steven Yeun’s Jupe Park brings the central themes of the movie to the forefront with the Gordy and Jean Jacket situation but other than that, the scene where he talks about the SNL sketch is a true highlight. You can see just how much the trauma from that accident affected him and how he’s almost in denial to admit it so much so that it ends up killing him when he tries to make a spectacle out of Jean Jacket. He doesn’t learn from his mistakes. Brandon Perea’s Angel was a great addition to the cast being the relatable, loveable character we don’t want to get killed off. Good thing he doesn’t.
Overall, ‘NOPE‘ currently ties with ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’ as my favourite movie of the year. 2022 has really brought back original stories in cinemas full force and I couldn’t be happier about it. The cast is stellar, the storytelling is meticulously brilliant, the scares effective. Jordan Peele is three for three with this one. It is easily my favourite project he’s done so far which is already impressive considering just how fantastic ‘Get Out’ and ‘Us‘ were. I hope that blockbusters continue in this chain of inventiveness and aim to inspire and entertain not just the latter, something that this movie understands deeply.
‘NOPE‘ is now showing in select theatres.