Nope sees Jordan Peele expand his horror scope with grandeur. We are no longer in the small intimate horror territory with Peele. The size of his alien invasion film shows off a new side of the director. We see maturity in this Peele film that is easily comparable to Spielberg jumping from Jaws to Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
At one time, M. Night Shyamalan was dubbed the next Steven Spielberg, which ultimately did not pan out after several critical bombs in the late 2000s. Peele, who has claimed to be inspired by Shyamalan, seems to have found that Spielberg spark Shyamalan almost had.
The film centers on two siblings, OJ Haywood (Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald Haywood (Keke Palmer), who train horses for Hollywood productions and commercials. After a freak accident on their ranch, the responsibility is placed in their hands to keep the family business running. And what is clear is OJ and Emerald (or Em) have vastly different personalities. OJ is more introverted and quiet, unlike Em who has showmanship like her father.
Following their family tragedy, strange happenings continue on the ranch. Their horses get spooked by an unforeseen presence, their power continues to flicker and shrink slowly to the point of shutting off, and a fast-flying object mysteriously appears in the sky.
After the sighting, OJ and Em decide to elevate the surveillance on the property in hopes of catching an image of the UFO on camera, humorously dubbed, “the Oprah shot.” Unfortunately, their attempts to capture the UFO are dismantled by unforeseen forces, as the aggressive saucer torments their ranch.
Cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema makes great use of IMAX in this film making the ranch invasion feel larger than life. Many sequences are rich with expanded shots of the night sky purposely filmed from low point-of-view angles to place the audience in OJ and Em’s perspective. The aspect ratio is both beautiful and terrifying as bad things begin to happen.
Jordan Peele goes full Spielberg
As stated, the film feels heavily influenced by Spielberg. Many have compared this movie to John Carpenter but the UFO approach in Nope feels similar to the shark in Jaws. Instead of the ocean, it’s a cloudy blue sky the characters watch in fear of finding a shark’s fin.
The characters have Spielberg impressions as well. Just like in Jaws, a small team is assembled to capture the monster. Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer combined are Roy Schneider, Brandon Perea (Angel the Fry’s retail worker) is Richard Dreyfus, and the amazing Michael Wincott is Robert Shaw.
Keke Palmer steals the show in Nope, impressively dominating the role she is given by Peele. She radiates charisma throughout the film on the same level as Will Smith in Independence Day. And just like Smith, she might have been a star before, but this movie will make her an A-lister.
However, there is one subplot that does not land audibly. The movie has a consistent theme involving animals in Hollywood productions. The experience of Nope has a series of flashbacks involving a Chimpanzee violently killing crewmembers of a sitcom. The character who survives this is Jupe (Steven Yeun), a child actor who now runs a Wild West theme park near the Haywood ranch.
As the movie draws to a close, it’s not entirely clear why this subplot was included as it did not serve a purpose to the overall experience. There are some fascinating parallels between the ape and the flying saucer worth analyzing. Still, the addition of these horrific flashbacks felt more befuddling than beneficial.
Jordan Peele’s Nope is proof that he is growing stronger as a filmmaker. He has mastered suspense/horror for quite some time but never on this scale. There are sections that hark back to films like Jurassic Park; films that possessed scenes grounded in horror but simultaneously wondrous to behold.
The film will both terrify viewers and make their jaws drop. It’s been a long time since a horror film felt like a blockbuster, and Peele is ready to reignite grand-scale horror to the mainstream.
Should you watch Nope in theaters?
Nope has one or two questionable creative choices. Nevertheless, Jordan Peele’s latest accomplishment is evidence of a filmmaker growing stronger in his skillsets and building muscles in other places. We rarely get a horror movie with this much spectacle and wonder.
As stated, many have compared Nope to Hitchcock and John Carpenter. And while these comparisons are not incorrect, Nope feels closer to a Spielberg experience. For the ultimate experience, see it on the largest and loudest screen possible.
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Nope hits theaters on July 22.