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‘Nope’ (review)

 

“I will cast abominable filth upon you, make you vile, and make you a spectacle.”

With this quote begins Nope, Jordan Peele’s latest effort, and upon finishing the film, that opening quote and what meaning one may construe from it once one knows what happens in the film, one understands exactly why that quote was chosen, both in terms of the narrative as it may be taken at face value, as well as the subtext of the film.

Few directors can boast of having had as strong of a directorial debut as Jordan Peele did with 2017’s exceptional Get Out, which suddenly saw the comedian deservedly being recognized for being immensely talented as a horror filmmaker as well.

After 2019’s Us, which managed to impress without achieving quite the same success and recognition as Get Out had, Peele has returned with his third feature film Nope.

Here, siblings OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald (Keke Palmer) try to continue running the family business of horse wrangling for motion pictures when strange events start to occur in the valley where their ranch is situated. This soon sees neighboring theme park owner Jupe (Steven Yeun) and Fry’s Electronics employee Angel (Brandon Perea) thrown into the mix as they all try to find out exactly what is going on, all having vastly varying motivations and different ideas for how to address the situation.

Beyond that brief description, Nope is a film that is best served by knowing as little as possible about the plot and simply easing into one’s seat for an increasingly uneasy and tense ride that addresses the concept of spectacle, what it means to different people, and what lengths people are willing to go to in the name of spectacle and the fame it may or may not bring with it.

As one has come to expect, Peele has once again managed to create a film that is beautifully shot and edited, with exquisite sound mixing to boot, all of which contribute to create a film that is as visually stunning as it is athmospheric and unnerving.

The acting is outstanding across the board, with Kaluuya, Palmer and Yeun in particular all turning in equally exceptional performances. Portraying three very different personality types – who all have very different ideas about and experiences with spectacle and fame – they manage to make a fantastical scenario feel incredibly grounded and, by proxy, probable.

While Peele has stated that Nope is supposed to be viewed as a cinematic spectacle that is open to the interpretation of the individual viewer, the film nonetheless still has a profound layer of social commentary thanks to the allegorical elements present in the narrative and character behaviors and arcs. This is not only in terms of how difficult Hollywood can be to navigate for anyone who is not white and wealthy, but also with regard to the lengths people are willing to go to in the name of capturing spectacle, often exploiting trauma and negating the impact of trauma due to their hunger for fame or other types of recognition.

With Nope, Peele may have outdone even his stellar directorial debut Get Out. As the story of Nope unfolds and increasingly gets under the viewer’s skin, it becomes evident that the storytelling and filmmaking talent on display is of a caliber that is seldom seen, making it easy to compare Nope to the likes of Steven Spielberg’s seminal Jaws in terms of storytelling, and, indeed, spectacle, proving that Peele and the talent he selects for his projects are among the very best working in film today, always ensuring to deliver pure cinematic magic at every turn.

Verdict: 10 out of 10.

*  *  *  *  *
Produced by Jordan Peele, Ian Cooper
Written and Directed by Jordan Peele
Starring Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun ,
Michael Wincott, Brandon Perea, Keith David

 

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