Nope (2022) – Sigh. Another Jordan Peele joint. Yet again, I have to separate the hype that intends to turn Jordan Peele into the second coming of Steven Spielberg for the reality that I am witnessing with my own eyes. The story is so sad. Not because of the goods being delivered by Peele are terrible (they are not), but rather that the commentary surrounding the release of his films is so yawn inducing. Nope is not a great film. Everyone knows it, but sadly only 41% filmgoers on Rotten Tomatoes will admit to it. Where should we begin?
Nope – It’s Raining Metal
The film oddly begins with a chimpanzee, a chimpanzee named Gordy. Covered in blood, Gordoy shakes the lifeless foot of what appears to be a young girl. Weird way to start an alien movie. Very quickly, we get to the meat and potatoes of the affair. Otis “O.J.” Hayward (Daniel Kaluuya) helps run a horse ranch in Agua Dulce, California with his father (Keith David). They raise horses for use in the film industry. One day, inexplicably, object start raining from the sky. One these objects, a nickle, hits O.J.’s father in the head. The wound is fatal.
Times are hard after one of the horses rear kicks someone on stage after being startled. O.J. must start selling horses to a local huckster named Ricky “Jupe” Park (Steven Yeun). Around the same time, O.J. notices that his horses are disappearing. After a few odd sightings and some electrical fluctuations, he begins to suspect that something nefarious is going on. A UFO perhaps (In think those in biz call them UAPs now). O.J. and his sister, Emerald (Keke Palmer) intend to find out what is going on for fame and fortune.
Then… an alien.
Brilliant Lead Role Casting
There is a lot to like about this movie. It starts with the casting. Daniel Kaluuya gives a fantastic performance. His delivery is more of an anti-performance. For much of the film he simply stares and contemplates. He’s a gruff and man and his father’s son, but in every shot the audience can feel the machinations of his mind grinding behind his eyes. The brilliance of his performance can be summed up by his most infamous line… “Nope!”
His sister, Emerald, comes straight from central casting and is mostly a stereotypical caricature. Still, I won’t blame Keke Palmer for the poor characterization that was handed to her. Ultimately, her performance is endearing and entertaining. She manages to convey an unspoken love for her brother despite the fact that they exchange less than a handful of words throughout the film.
The rest of the characters cover the spectrum of mostly o.k. to almost really good. This includes the Steven Yuen as Ricky “Jupe” Park and Brandon Perea as Angel Torres. Michael Wincott lays down a standard Wincott as the renowned cinematographer Antlers Holst. Its about as good as Michael Wincott is famous for, but nothing above his grade.
Speaking of Cinematography
It is abundantly clear that Jordan Peele has an eye for the camera. The shooting is utterly fantastic, especially during difficult night shooting. The shots cover the gambit from majestic to quirky, but each most are stunning in their own right. Since much of the action takes place in the clouds, towering shots of white pillars spanning across a barren Californian desert are literally jaw dropping. Early displays of the UFO are fantastic, but rather reserved. He sticks pretty close to the standard flying saucer idea for most of the film.
Still, there is beauty in simplicity and the CGI looks wonderful against Peele’s rich backdrops.
However, deep in the film the alien takes a completely different shape. If looks more like a parachute or a billowing bedsheet. While the graphics are bold and beautiful, I refuse to be frightened by a bedsheet.
So What Went Wrong?
With so much positive to say about the film, what could possibly be keeping me from singing its praises?
This film is dead slow. Calling is a slow burn is too nice. It is just flat out slow and doesn’t really make any serious moves until way late in the game. Even when it start galloping towards the punchline, it feels like I stuck in the Matrix cam. Just saying, I checked the time-left at lest 3 times in the last 20 minutes.
Second, the film bumbles though this highly unrelated sub-plot involving Gordy the chimpanzee. Many would argue that this aside lends itself as a metaphor for the dangers of of world hell bent on spectacle Internet points. We’ll file that under plausible, but so what. It feels out of place and doesn’t really deliver on the intended goods. Quite honestly, the entire Ricky “Jupe” Park concept could have been deleted and the film improved simply by being more concise. I will admit that the Gordy scenes were really interesting and impactful… just misplaced.
Finally, the big one. Every film doesn’t have to have some profound hidden meaning. From the looks of it, fans of Peele’s work are clamoring for meaning in this one. Nope is paper thin. Peele attempts to create an underlying sub-text on the topic of man versus nature, and the futility in which we continue to try, and the pain and suffering associated with that. He makes a valid point, but he fails to make his point in manner that counts.
If you have profound statement to make, land it. If only think you have one and miss, you’re just M. Night Shyamalan (shots fired). Nope is just a middling alien movie. Nothing more. I love you all and I am sorry to have to bring you this bad news.
Jordan Peele – Fantasticaly Overrated
I honestly feel bad about this next part. I feel bad because I am typing it this not because of anything that Jordan Peele did or didn’t do, but rather the pedestal that entertainment media places his work on. Get Out is not that fucking good. Its just pretty good, if not totally predictable. Get Out could have been a serious miss if Bradly Whitford didn’t bail it out. Get Out is a marginally good medical horror story and cool modern twist on Frankenstein Must Die (1969). That is all.
Us on the other hand was a standout film. The film was creepy and it satisfied the intellectual curiosity of the audience by revealing only enough detail to open the imagination. So far it is the best of Jordan Peele’s work, and a solid indicator of what he is capable of. Wow!
Nope is mostly is a really disappointing film with a lot of decent pieces.
As they say, 1 out of 3 ain’t bad.
Jordan Peele is not a bad director. He is also not a great director… yet. He clearly has an eye for the camera and aptitude in the directors chair and behind the pen. I fully expect great things from Jordan Peele, and I will be the first to sing their praises. What I will not do is pretend that a patently average film is great because a bunch of clown shoes writing for “legitimate” review outlets think its edgy and cool.
Nope is a nope for me. You won’t hate yourself for watching it, but it’s not great. If you are a fan of cinematography, you will find some wonderful scenes to sink your teeth in, but it will take 130 minutes to take them all in. Those are a long 130 minutes.
BONUS – O.J. Punks Out An Alien (SPOILER)
It seems that many are confused by the scene where O.J. gets in a stand-off with the alien. Considering that the alien pretty much devours anything that looks at it, it seems strange to think that O.J. would not suffer the same fate. Jordan Peele deftly cuts the camera away, so his end is somewhat ambiguous. At the finale, Emerald recovers from near death at the hands of the alien. She sees her brother mounted on his horse in the distance. Is it a vision, or is it real?
While the Internets seem to be consumed by this question, the matter seems rather straight forward. O.J. makes this statement referring to Jupe: “He got caught up trying to tame a predator. You can’t do that. You have to enter an agreement with one”. In this scene, O.J. and the alien lay it down. Don’t mess with me, and I won’t mess with you. At this point, the alien likely understands that they had proof of its existence. That proof poses an existential threat. Essentially, O.J. and alien settled a peace accord.
Come at me bro.