At this point no is surprised anymore by the talent Jordan Peele exhibits as a filmmaker/story teller. Whether it is movie making, sports, or whatever field you want to choose; most people will allude to the “Sophomore Slump.” The second time around is where someone proves if they are for real or not. But in film, I’ve found most apt filmmakers succeed in their sophomore outing. Maybe you liked Peele’s second feature, US, and maybe you didn’t. But it was in no way indicative of a “Sophmore Slump.” I’ve come to believe that in the world of film, it’s the third attempt that shows you what a real film maker is made of and Peele has knocked film number three, straight out of the park.
OJ Haywood (Daniel Kaluuya) has recently taken over his father’s business. A private owned horse training outfit that supplies horses for film and TV production; Otis Jr. is just not as successful as his father was in running the business. He is aided by his sister, Emerald (Keke Palmer), but she is more interested in trying to sell her own services than properly running the business. Times are so hard for the pair, that OJ has taken to selling most of their horses to local kids TV legend turned theme park evocator Ricky Park (Steven Yeun). OJ always plans to buy back his horses when he can turn the business around. When OJ and Emerald think they’ve seen a UFO flying around their property, they think they have the perfect way to strike it rich and famous, but things are not exactly how they seem.
A brief description of this film doesn’t start to truly explore its story in the slightest. Nope is on one hand what people are expecting, but on the other hand a completely different and surprisingly fresh take on the idea of extraterrestrials on Earth. I’m not going to ruin the surprise for anyone, but Peele and his team cleverly choose their clips for every trailer you see– to fool you. Those theories you’re coming up with because of a few creepy images in that TV spot…they are not what you think. While the calls to compare parts of Nope to Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind are valid and understandable; Nope ends up being more akin to the underappreciated Trollhunter, than anything else. All while still being a Jordan Peele film.
Nope is ultimately more straightforward and grandiose compared to Get Out and US. The cinematography is breathtaking and gorgeous. The sound design is unreal, too. This needs to be seen on a big screen. Peele isn’t stepping out of his comfort zone. You can tell how in control he is of a production of this size. Yet, he has clearly spread his wings and done what too many filmmakers fail at. He broadened his horizons, built a massive work of art that people will compare to summer blockbusters of the all-time greats; but he still made HIS film. This is a Jordan Peele film through and through. Peele for the masses if you will. He didn’t compromise his distinct style and turned in a crowd pleaser.
This isn’t to say there are some things I had issues with. The outcome was a joy for me, but very early on (while the film is still hiding its true intentions) Peele took the time to play with some aspects of a different version of this film…and boy was it terrifying. In some ways, I kind of wish there were two versions of Nope. The final version we got, and the other version that maybe fit the vision movie goers think this film is going to be. I can’t complain since I love the finished product, but man I kind of want that other film, too.
The other important thing to note about Nope, is that while the socio-political issues that people expect Peele to be exploring are still there for those that want to scratch away at the surface; they are much more of the background of this film. I say it is his most straightforward picture, and that hits on every level. Compared to Get Out and US, the final product here has a much clearer road toward an unarguable end. Those hints at the deeper meaning are more of an extra than a linchpin to the story. Just another way Peele is subverting everyone’s expectations.
Final Grade: A-
Here’s the trailer of the film.