Writer-director Jordan Peele makes his weirdest film yet with Nope, a stylish and bizarre foray into sci-fi horror inspired, in part, by the works of Spielberg and Shyamalan. Despite the inspiration, Nope stands very much on its own.
It’s no longer a mystery that this is an alien encounter movie, and it has some nice twists that make it very unique one. I’ll mention one: Referencing that UFO footage the military released a few years ago and playing a little off of that is a masterstroke, giving the film a nice sense of current-events urgency. Other twists … well, I’ll stay mum.
Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer play OJ and Emerald Haywood, brother and sister owners of a movie horse ranch near Hollywood. They’ve taken ownership after their dad (Keith David) died in a strange accident, and they are in dire straits. There’s a neighboring, Western themed, kitschy amusement park owned by Jupe Park (Steven Yeun), a traumatized former child star looking to find riches on his fake dude ranch.
The Haywood and Park stories will intertwine, with some of the plot developments making little sense—at first glance. One in particular, involving Park’s childhood gig on a sitcom with a chimp, had me scratching my head, but it made a little more sense when I contemplated it post-viewing. That’s OK … not everything needs to make perfect sense the first time through.
As he did with Get Out and Us, Peele mixes in nice doses of satire, this time focusing on showbiz and the media, and those doses account for some of the movie’s funnier moments. As for being a sci-fi horror show, Nope gets high marks. There is one terrific sequence that is as nightmarish as anything put to screen this year.
While many will cite Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind as a source of Peele’s inspiration for Nope (which Peele himself has done), I think this one has more in common with Spielberg’s sinister take on War of the Worlds—except this battle is isolated instead of involving the whole planet.
That sense of isolation is where a Shyamalan Signs vibe plays strongly. Some of Nope gets goofy in that Shyamalan way, too (The Happening, The Village), with the difference being the goofy stuff in Peele’s movie enhances the experience, while Shyamalan often torpedoes his films with such silliness.
I remember seeing Close Encounters in theaters when I was 10. As with Jaws, Spielberg didn’t roll the UFO money shots out immediately, and Peele takes a similar, stealth approach. Like Close Encounters, the movie is super weird in spots, with characters speaking and behaving oddly. I like it. It throws things out of whack in a movie that is about things being seriously out of whack.