It is always a weird feeling as a film journalist when you seem to be out of step with the popular belief. Believe me, when it comes to filmmaker Jordan Peele, I am well and truly out of step with the belief that the guy is some kind of genius who has completely re-invented the horror genre.
I’ve gone back over his films a few times trying to find something in them that sets them apart from the rest of the field, but alas, I still see Get Out as an okay horror that trips itself with a poorly executed political statement and Us is a real mess of a film from start to finish. Even with repeat viewing, I don’t see the genre re-invention and I certainly don’t see Peele as the genius that many herald him to be.
Now comes Nope, a film which I will admit, for the first three-quarters drew me right in and for awhile I started to think that finally Peele had created a film that I was going to thoroughly enjoy. But then the last quarter was a total let-down complete with a ‘creature’ that looked like it was made out of the leftover materials from a child’s Art & Craft box. A real shame because Nope had the basis to be a creative and interesting supernatural flick.
The film itself centres around the brother and sister duo of OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald Haywood (Keke Palmer) who are left to run their father’s Hollywood Horse Ranch after his sad demise in a supposed ‘one-off’ tragic event.
The report says that he was killed by items falling from a plane, but OJ is not convinced, and while he is in the middle of considering selling the ranch to former child actor and now Western Theme Park owner, Ricky ‘Jupe’ Park (Steven Yuen), he is also watching the skies for any other paranormal events.
Soon those other events begin to happen, and this time, Emerald experiences them as well. Together they realise they can save the ranch if they can just capture the phenomenon on camera and capture what they call an ‘Oprah shot.’ This then brings into the picture the UFO-obsessed tech store worker Angel (Brandon Perea), who just won’t take no for an answer into the scheme.
The first three quarters of Nope work exceptionally well. For once, I found myself drawn into a universe that Peele had created. I cared about the characters, and I found myself curious to unfold what was behind the events that were plaguing them. In my head, I even found myself congratulating Peele for making the wise decision of making Angel an interesting character rather than going for the traditional Hollywood trope of presenting him to the audience as an unrealistic buffoon just there for cheap laughs.
Likewise, the secondary storyline of Jupe being a child actor who had survived a wild animal attack on set was creative, while also hammering home Peele’s subtext that you can’t ever tame a wild beast and a brief look at Hollywood greed.
But while the first three-quarters of the film hold your interest I found that the last quarter seems to completely unravel. I found that Peele’s subtext and secondary storyline just went completely out the window. What should have been a huge action set-piece that cemented this film was kind of lame and the ‘creature’ reveal was probably one of the biggest disappointments that you will experience in cinema this year. When you consider how amazing the first part of this film is, it becomes a real shame that Nope seemed to fizzle-out out towards the end.
Nope’s big saving grace Keke Palmer’s performance. Palmer steals the show with her performance, and I’ll admit, there were times during the film where the focus was on OJ and I wished we were following what Emerald was doing. This is through no fault of Kaluuya. It is easy to see that Peele’s screenplay called for him to play OJ as a deadpan character. He just happens to be playing alongside an actress that provides an amazing performance and makes the film her own.
I will say that I did enjoy Nope a lot more than Get Out and Us. This time the basis was really there for a film that seemed to a cross between The X-Files and Signs. I really do feel that if the last act had been as good, Nope could have been one of the films of the year. Instead, Nope is an just okay movie that won’t be reaching the great heights that many will expect it to.