Directed by Jordan Peele
Director of Photography: Hoyte van Hoytema
Composer: Johnnie Burn
Written by Jordan Peele
Stars: Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun, Brandon Perea, and Michael Wincott
What better return to full movie reviews than tackling the latest by one of the best working directors in Hollywood. Peele in his third venture into filmmaking, once again shuffles the deck and provides a film completely different in genre to his past two- sure his signature touch can be felt throughout it, but instead of carving a niche out of his past two successes, he opts to utilize that touch in a brand new direction. Something that even critics of his films can admire that you're never going to receive the same film twice.
Two siblings who run a California horse ranch discover something wonderful and sinister in the skies above, while the owner of an adjacent theme park tries to profit from the mysterious, otherworldly phenomenon.
After the trailers were released, I was as perplexed as everyone else in what to expect out of the film. Yet that same level of confusion and intrigue about what I had just watched, was still around when the credits rolled. At first it was a level of confusion that left an unfavourable taste in my palette after watching, but then realization snuck in when talking with the people I went to see the movie with and reading the online discourse- that Nope while vastly different from the previous ventures, was still a strong piece of filmmaking that heavily uses its plot as metaphors for things in our world. The dialogue that came from the film led me to have a greater appreciation for it, because depending on the person- that I was discussing it with, the takeaway of what Peele was getting at could be vastly different.
The casting is so well done and all of our main characters get enough development to really give the audience a connection to them. The standouts for myself personally being Palmer and Perea, who go out of their way to steal the spotlight every scene that they are in. The chemistry between the duo, being some of the most memorable moments and dialogue from the film. There are moments throughout an especially gore filled sequences, where the duo find a way to still get the purposefully uncomfortable chuckle out of the scenario that they found themselves in. Yeun's role is a lot more minor than was expected from the trailers, but the performance still does a good of showing how mysterious and layered the Jupe character can be. While Kaluuya adds yet another strong showing to his filmography to prove that he is one of the best actors working in Hollywood today. His steely looks, grounded demeanour, and powerful presence is the perfect counter balance to Palmer and Perea's more lively and energetic characters.
Plenty of the horror is brought to life by the visual stylings of Hoyte van Hoytema, who uses tight spaces and camera angles- to raise the bumps on the audiences skin more than anything else. The way the film doesn't let us see the antagonist or what our characters are seeing when they look up for a good portion of the film, is not only such a brilliant honour to Jaws, but a brilliant idea that lets van Hoytema play around with the shots to bring out the most visual horror out of our characters to really let the audiences minds run amok with fear of what must be happening from the leads perspectives. There is a singular moment especially at Jupe's park, where van Hoytema's camerawork really shines- the level of claustrophobia and terror that came from that scene, will be something that haunts myself and other audience members memories for the near future. Theres as well a brilliant scene where we are in the point of view of one character, hiding from something antagonistic- and as the antagonist explores the area- its gaze never landing on the PoV holders but always being close, I couldn't help but to hold my breath
Many may be left confused or upset with the lack of explanations towards our antagonist, and the somewhat disappointing conclusion of the film. Yet, it's the meanings behind the things that are happening hat will leave Nope as a mostly positive takeaway. The side storyline with Gordy the Chimp, showcasing the horrors that can come back when nature fights back against mankind's exploitation- comes around beautifully when it comes full circle in connecting with the main storyline. After all, most of the story comes back to just that plot point- the way humans react in situations of danger, and just how brutal it can be when nature fights back against the greed, selfishness, and deceitfulness that is mankind. In a way this story is more appropriately a warning sign to us all of the way nature can combat itself back against the way we treat it, and for that Nope is some powerful filmmaking.
I wish the finish was stronger, and that our final encounter between our leads and "the antagonist" felt better because it could've wrapped the story up much better. The decision to have the encounter in the daylight felt anticlimactic, and in the end all the stakes around our characters lives that was built up well throughout- is lost in the end. Resulting in the overall experience dampening just slightly.