Nope (Review): Intense When It Chooses to Be

Jordan Peele returns with another original thriller. But should you say “Nope” to this one, or give it a shot? Read on to find out.

OJ and Emerald Haywood run a horse ranch near Hollywood which provides trained steeds for media. Their lives are consumed with fear and ambition after OJ spots a UFO in the sky above their home. Financial woes convince the siblings they must capture proof of this UFO on film and sell it to the highest bidder.

I’ll say this up top: Nope is a well-made film, and a cool original story… but it’s boring. It’s about double the length it ought to be, and most of that time feels like filler. I realize that, on paper, the length is to help us connect with the characters. The problem is that we understand these people early in the film, then are forced to kill time with them while they (and we) wait for something to happen.

Nope is even boring when things ARE happening! Its pace picked up towards the end for a bit, and I got excited. Then it just kept going and going and going until I didn’t care anymore.

And what the heck is with some of these subplots? They catch your attention at first, before fading into obscurity. I never understood their purpose (and I didn’t care enough about the film to look more deeply into it).

Nope‘s execution especially bothers me because this was a cool plot on paper! Nobody except the biggest of directors (Peele may now be counted among that select group) gets to make films like this anymore. Nope‘s relatively stripped down, low-stakes world is refreshing in a media landscape dominated by sprawling universes and effects-dominated styles. This film had the building blocks to become iconic, if only it was less bloated.

I appreciate that Nope isn’t especially dour, though it easily could have been. Few of the jokes are laugh out loud funny, but it earned a few chuckles from me– mostly from Keke Palmer’s delivery.

Actually, Keke Palmer is the real standout element of Nope. She brought an energy which the rest of the film sorely lacked. Em is a character whom some could find annoying. I found her charming, though flawed. But that’s a good thing.

Daniel Kaluuya‘s stoic turn as OJ is the kind of performance I don’t see in many films… intentionally. He appears largely checked out and low-key, almost like he didn’t want to be there. Only I can tell he’s doing it on purpose. So that means Kaluuya gives a solid performance.

OJ is the best-served character of Nope, with its clearest motivation and most to do. I sympathized with him and wished to see him succeed! His ending is arguably left up to interpretation but, from what I could tell, it undermines the film’s message.

OJ and Em’s sibling dynamic was well explored. It was was believable, and they complimented each other nicely. Their first shared scene was an excellent showcase for why they need each other’s help.

The main cast of Nope (from left to right: Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, and Brandon Pearea)
(Photo Credit: Monkeypaw Productions)

Steven Yeun, Michael Wincott, and Brandon Pearea all turn in decent performances. I’d dare to call some of them “memorable”! They weren’t deep characters by any means, but they mostly entertained me in their supporting roles.

Nope featured a stand-out score by Michael Abels! It effectively added tension to the final product, and created a generally eerie vibe. I always must note when a score catches my ear, because it’s rare.

Jordan Peele’s direction is also impressive. I may have complaints about Nope‘s plot and pacing, but Peele creates tension with superb skill! I found myself anxious more than a few times. Nope‘s scary moments are few and far between but, if that’s what you’re here for, you’ll enjoy them.

The production team picked gorgeous locations on which to shoot. The land is arid and empty but it has personality. It makes me want to visit California.

One mistake of Peele’s was showing too much of “the monster”. You’re not supposed to openly use your movie’s beast for extended sequences because they quickly loses potency for an audience. That’s either because the effects are weak, we aren’t forced to use our imaginations anymore, or the novelty wears off. The UFO in Nope suffered from all three of these problems by the story’s conclusion.

Word of mouth for Nope was bad after my screening. I wouldn’t normally mention such an occurrence, except I heard LOTS more grumbling than usual. My favourite comment was from a lady behind me who compared Jordan Peele to M. Night Shyamalan, in that he came out the gate strong and progressively gets less enjoyable with each film.

Nope‘s primary point is unclear. But I could tell the film was about SOMETHING. I read its message as: what you consume gives it power. And, when that something is bad, it consumes you. People offer attention for their own benefit. And it’s a risk to publicly engage. But are the rewards worth said risk?

I don’t know if Nope answers that question. Once again, I don’t even know if that was Peele’s intent. But I saw the UFO as a stand-in for outrageous people and things which the 24 hour news cycle gives legitimacy towards, when it’d be better for all involved if we merely left it alone.

Nope contains a well-realized world, good direction, and exceptional performances. It just left me underwhelmed. But it’s something different, at least. And I’m still thinking about it, even though I’d never watch it again.

There’s enough in Nope for film fans to appreciate If You’re Bored.

Is Jordan Peele a talent meant to last, or a flash in the pan with a few good films? What did you think of Nope? Please share your thoughts in the comments (no spoilers please). If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know.

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Till next time,

Joe Morin

By Joseph Morin

Joe's passion for film and entertainment began at 7 years old when his younger brother demanded to watch Duel of the Fates every day for weeks (on DVD). Joe admired the sequence so much, he decided to dedicate his life to film-making and storytelling. He has a degree in Cinema and Media Studies from York University. Joe loves DC superheroes (especially Superman), the first six Star Wars movies, and arguing about media with anyone who will listen.

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