Finding a movie that can bring you laughter, impressive acting, and fear is challenging. Nope brings witty humor to the table. It also takes on a new perspective of extraterrestrial life on earth – a perfect blend of sci-fi and horror. Peele uses some clever filmmaking techniques throughout the film. Nope is one of the first films ever shot with an IMAX camera. Jordan Peele also mentioned in an interview that the entire movie was shot during the daytime, and the filmmakers later edited some scenes to appear as if it was night. This maneuver avoids the classic horror movie drawback of insufficient lighting and gives the viewer a more unmistakable look at what’s unfolding. So, all in all, it’s a must-see movie experience.
Nope was written and directed by Jordan Peele. Peele’s third horror film, and definitely his most highly anticipated one. He has already set the bar high with two phenomenal movies (Get Out & Us). The director does not receive all of the credit, though, as Michael Abels does another masterful job with the score. The same Abels that Peele called upon for his previous two films.
Ultimately, the movie is about the constant desire of humans to observe from a spectacle. This film will reveal more and more to the viewer with each watch. It’s a slow burn. With perplexing scenes throughout the film, it keeps the mind-melting. Peele does a beautiful job of keeping the viewer engaged and guessing.
The main characters are Daniel Kaluuya playing OJ, and Keke Palmer, playing Emerald. At the film’s beginning, OJ (Kaluuya) lives on a horse ranch with his father and assists him with the family business, “Haywood’s Hollywood Horses.” Their father began the company with the intention of training horses for use in TV commercials and movies. Until tragedy strikes and their father suddenly passes away. This forces Em (Palmer) to return to the ranch with OJ. The Haywoods have a neighbor named Jupe, played by Steven Yuen, who owns a nearby amusement park called Jupiter’s Claim. He also occasionally buys a horse from OJ. Jupe makes an offer for the Haywood ranch, but OJ turns him down and persists in continuing his father’s legacy.
Early in the film, OJ has a mild alien encounter. So naturally, the brother and sister head to their local Fry’s to purchase camera equipment to capture their “Oprah shot.” Here is where they meet another character named Angel. He provides comic relief throughout the film while carrying out most of their dirty work.
Now we can get down to business.
The entire perception of the movie swivels when OJ says, “What if it’s not a ship?” Nope separated itself from your run-of-the-mill alien flick right here. At this point, the viewer assumes that the object in the sky is an aircraft. While all this time, OJ has been piecing together evidence that maybe this thing is an animal. “It doesn’t move like a ship,” he says.
Nope takes a drastic turn in tone in the “Gordy” chapter. Peele sets the scene with a pre-2000s sitcom featuring a live monkey named Gordy. Some balloons pop on set and send the monkey into a frenzy. This scene’s introduction strongly resembles Peele’s favorite film, “The Shining.” As “1998” appears in the middle of the screen, the camera slowly pans into the room where Gordy is wreaking havoc. With the camera showing as little as possible and the gut-wrenching sound effects, this scene creates an image in your brain that’s much more frightening than anything the movie could have shown. Now the camera cuts to a young Jupe, trembling in fear as he has a front-row seat to all this mayhem.
This scene has a lot to break down, so bear with us.
Here is where you see an easter egg of the film. The shoe stands upright in the middle of the set, with a singular drop of blood on the toe. The shoe could be taken as an anomaly or another “bad miracle,” as OJ asked his sister about it early in the movie. Peele’s intentions with the easter egg are undetermined, so don’t look too far into this.
As Jupe is still cowering under a nearby table, the sound effects coming from Gordy’s reign of terror are even more gruesome than before. Once the monkey finishes his rampage, he sits and pokes at the woman he had just been savagely beating, just as any innocent animal would do. The monkey slowly turns his head and locks eyes with young Jupe. He crawls slowly to the child, and the tension is building exponentially. When the monkey gets to Jupe, he breathes on the tablecloth that separates it from the boy. This scene strikes fear in the body, as the audience can almost feel the monkey’s breath through the screen. The animal then extends his blood-soaked fist. A seemingly harmless gesture after Jupe had just witnessed a murder spree from this same beast. As young Jupe slowly raises his fist to return the motion, the monkey’s life ends with a blow to the head from a rifle.
There’s a recurring theme displayed here. Do not look a predator in the eyes. Jupe’s eyes were shielded unintentionally by the tablecloth draped on the table above, saving his life. This idea appears first in the movie when OJ is reminding the workers on the commercial set not to look his horse, Lucky, in the eyes. This line will return later in the film when OJ realizes “Jean Jacket” shares those same animalistic tendencies.
Jupe’s childhood horrors reinforce the overall theme of spectacles. The events that transpired on the “Gordy’s Home” set mirror the horrific scene we saw at “Jupiter’s Claim” perfectly. Jupe did not learn his lesson. He tried to profit from a spectacle, just as his sitcom did, and he ultimately paid a substantial price for it. This scene could be referencing yet another “bad miracle.”
“What if I told you, you’re gonna leave here today, different?” Jupe’s clever introductory line to his speech foreshadows the ensuing horror that follows his speech. The mood seems to have lightened up after the “Gordy” chapter, but Nope takes another cruel twist when Jean Jacket devours 40-50 civilians at Jupiter Claim’s live show. This scene is where the movie viewer gets to see the sheer power of Jean Jacket. Peele again does a great job building suspense here. The Slurpee machine is slowly dying, and the wind is blowing in the “Gordy’s Home,” survivor’s veil. Plus, the screams from this scene are absolute nightmare fuel.
Jean Jacket then heads to the Haywood Ranch with a belly full of innocent bystanders. We presume this is a warning for the Haywoods to leave it alone as the alien unloads a clip of blood and miscellaneous items onto the farm home. Then it proceeds to dump the horse decoy, the one that Em baited it with earlier, onto the windshield of the OJ’s truck.
The score adds such an eerie feeling to the scene the following morning. When OJ creeps home, Angel’s van is still playing a slowed-down, almost hypnotic, version of the song “Sunglasses at Night.”
Now the movie switches back to a more playful tone. The newly assembled crew of OJ, Emerald, Angel, and Ant try to develop a plan to capture Jean Jacket on tape. A very elaborate plan. An almost impossible plan to achieve in their given amount of time. But who knows?
After they capture the “impossible shot,” thanks to OJ’s brilliant plan, Ant vaguely declares that the world doesn’t deserve this shot. He then takes his camera up on the ridge and sacrifices himself to the alien. Very frustrating stuff from Ant’s character, but in his mind, he had essentially accomplished his life’s work and no other reason to live.
Following this, Jean Jacket struggles to consume the other group members. We can assume this angers him as he unfolds into his final form, which is truly mesmerizing. We learned that the film’s survival key was resisting the natural urge to observe the spectacle. Anyone who locked eyes with the foe met an unfortunate demise. This next scene begs the question, does OJ survive? We can assume that OJ is attempting to “break” the creature like he would a horse as he gazes up and stares into the sinister-looking “eye” of the beast. The camera cutting to Em follows this scene, and all she sees is a cloud of dust. So the question is if OJ “broke” Jean Jacket or not. We see OJ again at the film’s end, but he’s on his horse under a sign that says “Out Yonder.” So this could be Peele signaling that OJ has passed, and he is only a figment of Em’s imagination.
Is this Jordan Peele’s best work? Maybe not, but it is undeniably great work. So to wrap up, Nope is a revolutionary alien tale that sets a precedent for future sci-fi films. The character development and cinematography were incredible in the movie. Those two things, coupled with the acting and score, make for an outstanding motion picture.