Horror/Mystery/Sci-Fi | Universal Pictures | Runtime: 130m | Rating: R
Written & Directed By: Jordan Peele
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun, Brandon Perea, Michael Wincott, Keith David
Synopsis: In a desolate region of inland California, ranch-owning siblings OJ (Kaluuya) and Emerald (Palmer) discover something extraordinary in the skies and set out to capture it on film.
Not since M. Night Shyamalan has a director burst onto the Hollywood scene with films that many consider to be revolutionary to their genres. Jordan Peele’s first film Get Out and his sadistic follow-up Us were films that reinvigorated the horror genre with thought-provoking material that movie goers had never seen. Peele showed he could create films that were out-of-the-box and truly frightening. Peele’s first two films were fueled by subject matters that were in fact more frightening and disturbing than the visuals displayed on the screen. So, I was naturally excited for Nope and it has been one of my most anticipated movies of 2022.
I won’t say Nope is Peele’s version of Shyamalan’s The Village, but it does feel like it drops down a few notches from the greatness bar Peele has set for himself. I enjoyed long stretches of Nope and the first act was more than capable of completely luring my attention and curiosity. Peele introduces this small family, random items have fallen from the sky taking a life, and it builds genuine intrigue. Kaluuya and Palmer are both fantastic and they breathe plenty of sincerity and life into these characters. You don’t know much about them, but you learn it as they make decisions and it’s enough to create a connection to them. Much like the rest of this small cast because from top-to-bottom Nope is certainly well acted with characters that are all interesting in their own way.
It’s also well shot. This dreary, dry, remote setting isolates the characters and when the mystery of the skies evolves it all blends to deliver a delightfully ominous atmosphere. It allows the suspenseful moments to make you feel uneasy, while the slow delivery of the plot’s foundations and Peele’s subtle messaging maintains this otherworldly wonder and appeal as the story progresses and the tension elevates. So, there is a lot working in Nope’s favor.
Then somewhere in the middle of this runtime it becomes clear what this film will turn out to be. This doesn’t cause a falter to the point of ruining the movie by any means. It does however result in a film that goes from completely fascinating, to almost completely silly. A film that starts as a methodical, provocative horror film, turns into a summer popcorn movie. This is where a bit of a big studio gloss begins to consume the looming tension that was so precisely crafted in the beginning. Certain characters are revealed more as plot devices. Some of the subplots and their meanings begin to feel a tad muddled and it did take me out of the film mentally.
With that said, and while this may be Peele’s weakest movie. It also shows that even a less than stellar movie from him can still be entertaining. Because this was an enjoyable movie to watch on the big screen. The sound design was impressive, and Peele’s direction and the cinematography created both a large scope, but also an intimate quality, that I found to be very immersive and rich with texture. I may have wanted something a bit deeper, something to pull my mind completely into, and Nope certainly manages that in places. But the end result is a film that unlike Peele’s others, you can pretty much get everything out of in a single viewing that doesn’t require such a hefty runtime.
Anthony J. Digioia II © 2022 SilverScreen Analysis. All Rights Reserved.