Flaws withstanding Jordan Peele successfully switches up for Nope
Updated: Jul 24
Jordan Peele returns to cinemas with his latest film for Universal Pictures, Nope. One caveat to my review (which I am trying to keep spoiler-free) in my opinion, Nope is Peele's most forthright and uncomplicated film yet.
Peele opens his third project during a chaotic moment on a fictitious sitcom where a tragedy occurs. The audience is then introduced to ranch owner and Hollywood animal trainer OJ Haywood (Daniel Kaluuya) and his father, Otis Sr. (Keith David). Within moments random objects fall from the sky, resulting in the death of Otis Sr.
After six months, OJ struggles to keep his father's legacy alive. OJ's sister Emerald Haywood (Keke Palmer) works alongside her big brother on the job. Murphy's law comes into play as the siblings lose their latest gig. To deal with his ranch's financial issues, OJ has no choice but to sell several horses to Jupe (Steven Yuen), a former child actor who owns and operates the carnival 'Jupiter's Claim.'
The siblings discover possible evidence of a UFO through a series of events. Hoping to capture video evidence of an unidentified flying object, the Haywood's enlist the help of tech salesman Angel Torres (Brandon Perea) and documentarian Antlers Holst (Michael Wincott). The strained sibling relationship is well set up by Peele early on. In addition, there are times when the film seems to go down one road during the first half but it's all a set up for something else.
There is a moment that involves a memorable cameo from legendary actress Donna Mills and I thoughts the route Peele would take is assumptions, but I was wrong. As layers slowly unravel, the director hints at what the film is about. It was an intelligent move to reunite with his Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya. As OJ, Kaluuya brings a natural everyman approach. He's a man who realizes the depth of his father's legacy and will do anything to preserve it. It's a genuine relationship between Kaluuya and Palmer.
I've been a fan of Palmer since her days as Akeelah, and with this role, she continues her transition to adult actress. Instead of turning Palmer into a scream queen, Peele turns her into a confident young woman. Combined with her voicework in Lightyear, Palmer has cleared up any misgivings from Alice, which was released this past spring to abysmal reviews.
Michael Wincott and Brandon Perea provide competent support as Holst and Angel. As Angel, Perea effectively tapes into his role as a modern-day techie. In contrast to his usual villain roles, Wincott portrays a gruff cinematographer, and his character will delight film buffs. I couldn't help but smile at the tools that Hoslt used and his approach to problem-solving.
Also, I recommend viewing the film on the big screen to experience Peele's vision. The auteur shot the movie with actual IMAX cameras. The footage shot with the cameras comes across beautiful shown in certain scenes. The one gripe I had with Nope was Steven Yeun's character arc. Despite his character connection to the plot, I wasn't invested in his storyline. In retrospect, his arc could have been applied to one of the Haywood siblings.
If I had to summarize, Nope, it's a genre fusion. A love letter to Steven Spielberg's style of filmmaking mixed with a dash of society's fascination with spectacle and topped off with the theme of family.
Nope is sure to be Peele's most decisive film yet. I did feel that he was overly ambitious in aspects, and the script could use minor tweaks. Nevertheless, he succeeded if the goal was to show what he could do with the summer blockbuster template.
Final Grade: B
Nope is in theater s now