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‘…a good Saturday night entertainment, but perhaps more was expected from a writer director whose name has become an established brand…’

There’s a very old cartoon that shows aliens coming to earth and positioning themselves in front of a bin, vending machine or parking meter and announcing ‘Take me to your leader’. That very basic gag is at the centre of Jordan Peele’s sci-fi action movie Nope, in which, vague spoilers but you can see most of this in the trailer, aliens mistake a number of man-made creations for life, and promptly gobble them up, leading to wild bouts of indigestion.

It’s the aftermath of just such a close encounter that kicks things off; OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) watches as a hail of random objects descends on his remote farm, and one kills his father (Keith David). OJ takes over the running of the family business with his sister; they prepare and train animals for use in films. where they meet Jupe Park (Stephen Yuen) who had a previous run-in with a wild chimpanzee that was startled by a popping balloon into a murderous rage. Meanwhile back at the ranch, OJ feels that alien creatures may be watching, and sets about figuring out how best to take a photograph of them, an elaborate process involving a ego-centric film-maker (Michael Wincott) and a number of these air-powered ghosties things you see outside car-dealerships.

We’re not dealing with smart alien mega-brains here, more like a primal force that only wants to eat; it chows down on a wooden horse, the aforementioned ghosts, and eventually a giant inflatable mascot, none of which it enjoys. This is all as silly as it sounds, a Twilight Zone episode, perhaps, but hardly material for a 2 hour plus movie. Yet Peele has the right touch for this, and while it’s weird and wacky, it’s also curiously gripping; even an early fake-out with kids messing in OJ’s barn has more menace that most alien movies ever provide.

Nope takes its name from OJ’s reaction to seeing aliens encroaching; it’s a flat denial of an unpalatable reality. Oddly enough, audience enthusiasm seemed to go the same way for Peele’s film, which was front-loaded with adoring reviews and big box office, but trailed off badly once it became apparent that there was no Get Out or Us style twist. That’s not to say it’s a bad movie, it’s a good Saturday night entertainment, but perhaps more was expected from a writer-director whose name has become an established brand.


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  1. I missed this post when I was busy on a project and I’m a little taken aback by your review and the comments (apart from the last two). I’m aware that the film did puzzle some audiences and it was, not surprisingly, over-hyped before its release. I agree that it doesn’t all hang together, at least on a first viewing. However, I’m amazed that nobody here seems to have noticed the specific sub-text which Peele has discussed in interviews. This is a film about the under-representation of African-Americans in both the ‘real’ history of the American West and in the mythologised Hollywood history. Peele links the Black rider in the Muybridge experiments in photographing the motion of a cantering horse in 1887 to the eventual breakthroughs in the 1960s/70s which saw African-Americans cast in Westerns, in particular Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte. Did nobody wonder why Peele places the poster for ‘Buck and the Preacher’ (US 1972) so prominently in several scenes?

    • It’s all there for sure, and neglected in my review. From the zoetrope that reflects the black rider in the opening scene to the iconic movie emergence of the hero at the gates of the park in the final scene, Peele certainly does okay with our notions of black cowboys and a revision of Western tropes to reflect black history. I guess I didn’t reflect enough on this, but I’ll offer as my excuse that I felt that Nope already had a subtext in the gorilla/tv studio story. While I did enjoy Nope, and it’s a rich enough film to have multiple tiers of engagements, I do feel it ended up overstuffed with ideas than never quite gel. While the Yuen plot line was striking, I’m not sure if the film would have suffered without it, and the commentary on black Western history, pertinent as it was, didn’t square with the main cowboys and aliens plot. I do think Peele managed to gel his influences together in Get Out, but in Nope, his big ideas are not properly digested, like the debris that the monsters spit out…

      • OK. I haven’t fully digested the whole ‘Jupiter Claim’ sequence yet and I hope it becomes clearer on a second viewing. I confess that I usually forgive films that try to do too much – as long as what is included is worthwhile, even if confused.

  2. I’m only guessing – I only saw Us – but I think Peele is trying to produce a certain sort of film; a film that fulfils genre expectations (horror etc) but is also a subtle social commentary. I’m just not sure he pulls it off? Us has a lot of interesting things to say about how we all have two aspects and allowing one to come to the fore means sublimating the other, but I think it could have gone further and deeper. Similarily – at least, according to one reviewer – Nope is about humanity’s tendency to exploit animals for gain (perhaps in the context of the film industry??) the animals in this case being the chimp, the horses and the alien. I guess Peele is saying we diminish ourselves by doing so? It’s hardly an original position.

  3. There was some fascinating ideas and concepts that never quite gelled. I still enjoyed Nope, mainly because it was refreshing to see a completely original, non IP film, which is such a rarity in Hollywood. I really enjoyed all the actors in their respective roles, particularly Steven Yeun. And I thought the big finale was thrilling, especially shot with those big, wide IMAX cameras.

    • Yup, I enjoyed this right to the end, and the big crowdpleasing finale. Maybe it’s not a game-changer, but it absolutely does entertain. And yes, an original Ip in a summer blockbuster, so that SHOULD be celebrated.

  4. Some directors start out well enough but then begin a slow and steady deterioration, and I fear Jordan Peele is one of them.

    • Maybe we’ve put Get Out on a pedestal, or maybe we’re getting harsher on this kind of Twilight Zone stories he tells; this certainly didn’t perform the way Get Out did, and maybe our heightened expectations don’t help.

  5. For me, Peele is very close to M. Night Shyamalan territory after this one. I really loved Get Out. Us…I gave a pass to because I thought it was a great concept and stylish, but he just didn’t stick the landing. This movie? I couldn’t believe all the adoring reviews for Nope. I clearly didn’t see what others saw, continuing to speak about Peele as if he was Spielberg. Didn’t like Nope at all. Many critics have already awarded him greatness. I’m still very much reserving my judgement on that topic.

    • Yup, I was glad I waited until the ridiculous adulation stopped before viewing this; based on the waves of praise, I’d have expected a masterpiece, and this is anything but. If anything, it’s like a throwback to Tremors, it’s like a 50’s B movie with today’s high end production values. Us made zero sense to me, and this is similarly all fur coat and no knickers.

  6. If Dickens had written this, the aliens would have asked for a pot of burned porridge and died from it. Oh well, all the good writers are dead 🙁

    I would probably only watch this by accident on Prime if I was totally bored with everything else. And since I’ve got Starsky and Hutch, I won’t be bored for quite some time…

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