Well, this is one way to do something different with the UFO genre, and I’m all for it!
Set on a Hollywood horse ranch that’s seen better days, Nope follows two siblings, Otis “OJ” Haywood Jr. (Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald “Em” Haywood (Keke Palmer), after their father is killed in a seemingly random accident they can’t readily explain. Soon figuring out that something out of the ordinary is stalking them from the skies, OJ and Em take it upon themselves to get the “Oprah Shot” of this unidentified flying object in the hopes that it will save their family business, skyrocket them to stardom, and eliminate all their problems in one fell swoop. But as they slowly realize the gravity of the situation they’ve put themselves into, OJ and Em are swept up into a terrifying back and forth with an aerial entity that isn’t what it seems. And as the threat from above closes in on them, they are forced to find a way to not only prove its existence but survive long enough to tell their tale to anyone left alive to hear it.
At this point, it’s clear writer/director Jordan Peele is going to have an incredibly long and exciting career in Hollywood. From the near-perfect film that was his inaugural debut, Get Out, to his well-made but ultimately head-scratching sophomore effort that was Us, and now, with the UFO-tinged sci-fi/horror film, Nope, Jordan Peele has proven more than once his talents as a filmmaker are a force to be reckoned with, despite some missteps he continues to make along the way.
By mixing new and inventive horror elements with a dash of his patented comedic humor topped off with a layer of social commentary that always seems to help make his films feel more than the sum of their genre parts, Peele is consistently able to bring audiences fresh film experiences that, like Nope, immediately hook them in with story ideas that are unlike anything seen before. And while Nope sees Peele continue his trend of being a creatively inspired filmmaker that all eyes need to be on, he also falls into a few traps of his own making that lessen an otherwise great theater-going experience.
Choosing to see this movie in IMAX was probably the best idea I had going in mostly because when coupled with the UFO subject matter at hand, a lot of Nope‘s runtime is spent watching characters stand around staring at the clouds. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it never felt boring or pointless since searching for where the UFO’s menacing form might pop up next became something more akin to an I Spy book than anything else, with the larger format really putting me into the scares of the ever-looming threat above while giving me a sense of scale that the cinematography leaned into more often than not. And while it takes a bit for the big reveal to happen (in a bit of a contrived way I have to add), I will 100% give credit where credit is due, as Peele showed me something in this film that I had yet to see in the genre before — something I highly appreciated and applaud him for pulling off. But despite this great moment and a few others that successfully flipped what it means to tell a UFO story on its head, the rest of the somewhat inconsequential script (what really was the point of Steven Yeun’s character or the entire monkey murder spree idea???) didn’t always do enough to keep me fully invested in a narrative and a handful of characters that weren’t as compelling as they could have been, nor as ultimately satisfying as what Peel was clearly striving for.
So although Nope has some great shots and scenes sprinkled throughout, it isn’t as well executed on a filmmaking or scripting level as Get Out or even Us, knocking it down a few pegs in my book. Regardless of the criticisms, Nope is another enjoyable outing from the scary good mind of Jordan Peele, so as always, I’m ready for his next project!