Nope (2022) Movie Review

Director: Jordan Peele
Writers: Jordan Peele
Stars: Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun

I don’t know if there is a creator today that is making blockbuster-meets-high-brow-cinema quite as effectively as Jordan Peele. I often write about films that have two facets—the story told at face value, and the story told underneath it.

Peele is a master of both, and his strongest attribute is how he creates them so independently from each other. It is very easy to watch Nope and think of no deeper thought beyond the palpable feelings presented within this story of an alien invasion. It is also incredibly easy to watch Nope and access the stirring thoughts that seem to lurk in Peele’s insightful mind.

The concept of the commodification of trauma and how it links our human desire to push against our own discomfort in order to retain profit. The concept of our inability to separate our sense of fear from our desire to examine the things causing us distress. The concept of the taming of animals for capital gain when we have no understanding of their inner nature. These very heady ideas permeate the film and make it groundbreaking and special, but understanding their value within the script is not a prerequisite to enjoyment. Peele’s work as a scriptwriter is nearly outmatched here by his prowess as a director.

With the stunning Hoyte Van Hoytema behind the camera, Nope manages to capture some of the single most impressive visuals of the year capturing scale and always precisely identifying with the perspective of the character central to the given moment. All at once, the film is tense, funny, and awe-inspiring as the camera captures the brilliant nuance of the inspiring visual and practical effects work.

The performances are nothing shy of brilliant, particularly Keke Palmer who manages to imbue Peele’s film with a vibrancy that excels beyond even his most alluring characters in works past. The resolution of the film does work to its detriment as it refuses to capitalize on interpersonal dilemmas that set the stage for thematic arcs.

This finale also diminishes the grounded realism of the world with nonsensical character decisions that act merely as contrivances to the plot (I must also acknowledge a TMZ reporter character who is shamelessly a vessel for disingenuous satire that breaches the film’s tone). There is perhaps plenty of symbolism to be derived from these elements but they lack the baked-in attention to detail that makes the other symbolic pieces work so succinctly.

Regardless, Nope’s finale still manages to pull taut the strings of technical mastery. It manages to feel emotional even when its final message is distant. And the ride is consistently worth the thrill. 8.8/10

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