REVIEW | Nope (2022) & The Mind of Jordan Peele
Contains Mild Spoilers
Author’s Note: I saw Nope in a movie theater, after only having seen the original teaser trailer. The most recent trailer gives away too much and should be avoided.
While filming Nope, writer/director Jordan Peele revealed that his most-used word on set was spectacle, and a spectacle it is. Nope earns its R-Rating for a disturbing set of visuals, but this horror comedy has its roots in sweeping westerns and awe-inspiring science fiction.
Nope opened with chart-busting, in-person ticket sales - $44 Million - for its first weekend in theaters, cementing Peele as a modern-day legend, even if he shies away from those types of labels himself.
Although most horror movies reflect contemporary societal anxieties, Peele’s work is particularly rife with socio-economic commentary.
Get Out took on race in white communities, Us echoed the horrors of the prison system, and Nope takes on the industry of spectacle: Hollywood. Peele includes footage from the very first film ever made, Eadweard Muybridge's The Horse In Motion (1878). In Peele's fictionalized backstory, the cinematographer is identified, the horse is identified, but the Black rider is only known to the protagonists; Haywood siblings, OJ (Daniel Kaluuya), and Em (Keke Palmer) know him as their great-great-great grandfather.
The movie begins with audio from a fictional family sitcom and the first half of the film's horror centers around a cloud. Jordan Peele draws from a rich canon of influential filmmakers as well as his history as a Black entertainer in Hollywood and combines offbeat references and images into a UFO (or UAP) film that somehow all fits together.
Days later, and I’m still peeling back layers . . .
Audiences were confounded by the film’s fixation on an upright blue shoe that first appears in the opening scene. It wasn't until I went searching and found a Reddit explanation that I understood it’s a visual metaphor. The keeper of the shoe learned the wrong lesson from a childhood incident. So all his life, he’s been waiting for the other shoe to drop.
It’s such a delicious puzzle - with metaphors upon metaphors, and characters who live such lies they actually believe them - it demands a second viewing. And perhaps a little outside digging. Turns out, the word Nope is not only uttered by the characters but is also a lesser known term for extraterrestrials - Not of Planet Earth.
With repeated viewings, the movie continues to reveal itself just like its creature. However, the pace lags in the second and third act, which can make numerous watches a tad frustrating. Thankfully, the actors do such sensational work, it’s a joy to spend time with these characters, cheering the main team on to get the recognition the Haywoods' great-great-great grandfather deserved all those years ago.
Spectacles entertain, and Peele does just that. Nope has one of the most captivating opening scenes in film history and one of the most satisfying final tableaus.
The mind of Jordan Peele continues to be one of the most astonishing imaginations in Hollywood.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83% Certified Fresh
Popdust Rating: 4 / 5