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Nope ★★★



Director: Jordan Peele

Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Michael Wincott, Steven Yeun, Brandon Perea

Release: August 12, 2022 (UK)

How much is a spectacle worth? Jordan Peele’s sci-fi summer blockbuster, Nope, poses this question in a manner that is both intriguing and, at times, frustratingly enigmatic. While Peele’s UFO mystery continues the traits we’ve come to love; skilful cinematic homage (this time to Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters and Jaws) and impressive subtext; it also displays a willingness to leave the audience out of the loop – to mixed results.  

Following the strange and sudden death of his father OJ Snr. (Keith David) six months earlier, OJ Haywood Jr. (Daniel Kaluuya) runs Haywood Hollywood Horses, a wrangling operation supplying horses for movie and TV productions. Left to oversee the family ranch in the California valley, introverted OJ struggles to build rapport with dismissive clients on set and is saved only by the boundless charisma of his younger sister Emerald (a top-tier Keke Palmer). When the pair suspect an unexplained presence is lurking near the ranch, they set out to capture it on camera.

Where Get Out and Us, contained delectable breadcrumbs of social commentary that were carefully pieced together, Nope is a more stolid experience. The first two-thirds of the film move languidly as the siblings decide that if they can prove something is hovering above them, friend or foe, it can then be used to further their goal to buy back the horses their father used to own. In this endeavour, they enlist the services of surveillance-tech guy Angel (Brandon Perea) and cinematographer Antlers Holst (Michael Wincott). Once this premise is established, Peele doesn’t rush to explain much more or reach a narrative conclusion, instead bleeding into the character of Jupe (Steven Yeun).

A former 90s child star who survived an incident where a chimp turned violent on the set of a TV show, Jupe’s adult life has been shaped by this tragedy, and he now runs a rinky-dink wild-west theme park in the nearby desert. Jupe’s actions and their consequences within the film feed into Peele’s examination of spectacle, yet despite some chillingly effective flashbacks and absolutely incredible use of sound design, Jupe’s story feels like more of a b-plot than a fully formed strand of the main narrative.

In many ways, Nope bets big on its third act, and it’s down to the viewer to decide if the final reveal is worth the price of admission. Wrestling back attention with a gloriously booming western score, Nope builds to a rather mesmerising crescendo that will have you literally craning your head to take in. Nope may not possess all of the crowd-pleasing DNA desired, yet Peele’s commitment to telling the story he wants in the manner he feels best makes this reviewer keen to keep looking at what he does next. 

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