Peele’s third feature is his most ambitious yet though not necessarily as sharp as his previous works, firmly locating itself in sci-fi horror territory while expressing our innate desires for attractions and spectacles.
Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Brandon Perea, Steven Yeun, Michael Wincott
Plot: Two siblings running a horse ranch in California 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.
Distributor: United International Pictures
Subject Matter: Moderate – Attractions & Spectacles; Mystery of the Unknown
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
Viewed: In Theatres (Shaw IMAX Waterway)
This film was reviewed in the IMAX format, which is the best way to experience it.
While Nope has divided fans more than usual, Jordan Peele’s track record remains untarnished. Like Us (2019), Nope sees Peele playing with cinematic conventions while at the same time making a point about who we are as human beings.
Both films are, of course, nowhere as game-changing as his first feature, Get Out (2017), which resituated Black identity through familiar genre conventions and then pulled the rug out from under us.
There is little of a rug to speak of in Nope, though it is his most ambitious work yet, not so much conceptually but in scope and scale.
Set out in the dusty American West where Daniel Kaluuya plays OJ, an animal wrangler who, with her talkative sister (Keke Palmer in an excitable role), discovers something chilling in the sky. To say anything more would spoil the fun.
“What’s a bad miracle?”
Nope firmly locates itself in sci-fi horror territory, employing tropes of the genre while, not surprisingly, upending them as the film moves along.
More interestingly, Peele also brings in a bit of the history of cinema with the first ever moving image ever created in 1888 (i.e. the Roundhay Garden Scene), while also featuring cameras (surveillance, digital, film, and even an IMAX camera) as a visual motif, expressing our desires to seek out and capture spectacles. In that regard, Nope can be cheekily meta-filmic at times.
One of the locales in the film is a fairground attraction, which is very much emblematic of Peele’s preoccupation with the idea of a ‘cinema of attractions’, which film scholar Tom Gunning associated with early cinema.
Stripped of its generic elements, Nope is about attractions, spectacles and lenses—it’s about what we want to see, why we want to see it, and how we want others to see it.