Jordan Peele's New Epic 'Nope' is a Fresh, Fun and Fascinating Movie
Director Jordan Peele delivers another unexpected classic that reinvigorates the genre with excellent performances from Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer.
Opening in theaters on July 22nd is the latest movie from Oscar-winning filmmaker Jordan Peele called ‘Nope.’ The movie stars Oscar-winner Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer as brother and sister ranch owners who discover a UFO.
In addition to Kaluuya and Palmer, the cast also includes Oscar-nominee Steven Yeun, Brandon Perea, Michael Wincott, and Keith David. The result is a truly thrilling, original, and at times funny take on the alien invasion genre featuring standout performances from Kaluuya and Palmer.
The film begins with an odd side-story about a 90’s sitcom starring a chimpanzee, who during a taping killed most of the cast and crew. We then meet Otis Haywood (David) and his son OJ (Kaluuya), who own a ranch outside of Los Angeles and also train horses for film and TV. When strange objects begin to fall out of the sky, Otis is killed by the falling debris.
Months later, OJ is working on the set of a commercial with his unreliable sister Emerald (Palmer), and a cinematographer named Antlers Holst (Wincott). When the shoot doesn’t go as planned, OJ begins selling some of his horses to a carnival owner named Ricky “Jupe” Park (Yeun), with the intent on eventually buying them back. But Emerald recognizes Park, and it is revealed that he was a child actor and the lone survivor of the doomed sitcom with the chimpanzee.
OJ eventually confides in Emerald that he does not believe that falling debris from an airplane killed their father, and that he believes it was actually a UFO. Wanting to get proof, and thinking that will make them rich and famous, the two enlist Fry’s Electronics salesman Angel Torres (Perea), and Antlers Holst, to help them capture footage of the spaceship. But after a terrible tragedy at Park’s carnival, OJ begins to think that the object in the sky is not an alien spaceship, but rather a giant alien itself.
Actor and comedian Jordan Peele made the jump to directing with his surprise hit movie and Oscar nominated film ‘Get Out’ in 2017. Since then, he has won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and directed the acclaimed horror film ‘Us’ in 2019. In a few short years Peele has completely reinvigorated the horror genre and become one of the most original and interesting filmmakers working today. His latest outing is no different, delivering a fresh and original take on the “alien’s attack” theme, which is often quite funny in a very organic way.
Peele has also become a master at deconstructing the expectations of the horror genre, as well as moving the camera in an interesting way. The movie is filled with jump scares, but they never feel forced and in fact enhance the creepiness and mood of the film. Peele’s cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema beautifully captures the vast vistas of the ranch, while contrasting that with the horrors of the movie.
Peele also makes some brilliant choices with the pacing of the movie and the way he shows the terror of the alien moving through the open skies. While it doesn’t really connect till the end of the movie, I really enjoyed the side-story of the 90’s sitcom with the chimpanzee. It helps to illustrate the theme of the movie, which OJ actually says at one point, about how we as humans need to leave apex predators in nature alone.
Special credit should go to Peele and his team for their unique take on what an alien creature can look like. I’m so tired of seeing movies that feature aliens with the creatures often looking like copies of the Xenomorph from the ‘Alien’ franchise. The extra-terrestrials in this movie are completely original, and look like nothing we’ve seen before, adding to the originality of this film.
The acting in the movie is excellent, all the way down to supporting performances from Brandon Perea and Michael Wincott. As Angel, Perea plays the enthusiastic outsider and the eyes of the audience, but also layers in a very funny performance. Wincott, a veteran actor you will recognize from ‘The Crow,’ was perfectly cast as the grizzled Hollywood cinematographer who tries to help the Haywood’s get their photographic evidence.
Keith David also gives a nice performance as Otis Haywood, but I wish he had at least one more scene in the beginning of the movie to make his death resonate more with the audience. It’s also worth noting that motion capture actor Terry Notary (‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’) plays Gordy, the chimpanzee in flashbacks. Having played King Kong in ‘Kong: Skull Island,’ Notary was maybe the only actor that could play this role, and actually injects vulnerability and a sense of regret to the animal’s actions.
Rounding out the supporting cast is Steven Yeun, who gives a very good performance as Ricky “Jupe” Park. Although the character could have been more fleshed out in the present day, his flashback scenes tell you everything you need to know about why he is still chasing fame, and the overall fear that he has lived with since that traumatic event happened in his past.
The breakout performance award goes to actress Keke Palmer, who is an absolute delight to watch. Palmer plays Emerald as the annoying younger sister to OJ, more concerned with achieving fame and money than continuing her family’s legacy. But the actress is also very funny in the movie, in an organic way, that is in stark contrast to Kaluuya’s quiet and brooding performance. The two actors have fantastic chemistry together on screen and are completely believable as brother and sister.
But it is Daniel Kaluuya’s strong performance that really anchors the film. The actor, who has giving standout performances in ‘Sicario,’ ‘Get Out,’ ‘Black Panther,’ ‘Queen & Slim,’ and ‘Judas and the Black Messiah,’ for which he won his Oscar, demonstrates again in ‘Nope’ that he is one of the finest actors of his generation. Kaluuya is completely believable in the role and makes for an unlikely hero by the film’s end.
In the end, with ‘Nope’ Jordan Peele has delivered a stunningly beautiful movie, that transcends its own genre by telling a fresh take on the “alien invasion” theme with brilliant performances from the entire cast.
‘Nope’ receives 4.5 out of 5 stars.