In the five years since his debut film Get Out, Jordan Peele has established himself as a new Master of Horror. The promotional material for his latest work suggests he knows how popular he’s become, too: his own name is highlighted with equal prominence to the film’s title: Nope.
Taking place on a California ranch, the film follows two siblings, played by Keke Palmer and Daniel Kaluuya, as they struggle to sustain a horse wrangling business following the death of their father. While facing the prospect of selling the ranch to local entrepreneur and former child actor Jupe, played by Steven Yeun, they notice an odd presence near the farm.
Suspecting it might be extra-terrestrial, the pair seek to get the “Opera Shot” of the UFO that will make them famous. However, the pursuit of evidence puts them in the path of danger.
Nope examines our fascination with tragedy and celebrity. Peele mentioned the pandemic as an inspiration, and these themes give the story depth which, combined with a witty script and old-fashioned filming techniques, makes for a spooky story that’s a lot of fun to follow.
It’s all gorgeously shot. There are a number of memorable images, such as a field of inflatable sporting mascots (get tickets and you’ll see) which send a chill. Occasionally, Peele’s narrative threads bump into each other in a way that feels too chaotic: a subplot involving Jupe’s survival of a tragedy culminates in a horrifying flashback, for instance, but these can distract from the main journey.
But with a cast this impressive, there’s no harm in hanging around. One of the best stars around at the moment, Kaluuya’s first post-Oscar role is another example of the British actor’s range.
His character, the reserved OJ, is miles from what Kaluuya’s played in the past, but feels authentic and allows him to convey a film’s worth of emotions in just one look. Palmer serves as the other side of the coin as fearless sister Em, stealing many scenes with her quick delivery and there are memorable supporting turns from Yeun and Brandon Perea as UFO enthusiast Angel.
Nope may be one of the best acted films since, well, Get Out. A popcorn movie with a brain, Nope shows Peele has an ability to hold a mirror up to society while still being thoroughly entertaining.