Some directors attract a devoted following, with their films becoming big releases no matter what – Christopher Nolan, Edgar Wright, Martin Scorsese to name a few. You can now add Jordan Peele to that list, with his hit horror films Get Out and Us garnering praise, awards and profits aplenty. His latest film is the succinctly titled Nope and it is his most ambitious yet, it follows brother and sister OJ and Em Haywood (Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer respectively) who are trying to get to the bottom of the bizarre, extra terrestrial goings on on their dads (Keith David) ranch and get it on film.
This is a unique film in that it is not one thing or the other, it is part horror, part sci-fi and part western. It starts off slowly setting the scene, introducing the background and relationships within the Haywood family, former child star Jupe (Steven Yeun) and his rootin’ tootin’ theme park Jupiters Claim. Peele certainly takes his time, taking the scenic route in getting to the point of the story – the main themes of which are fame and gawking at spectacles. This leisurely start helps build the suspense but feels a bit self indulgent and only adds to the initial confusion.
When it finally gets there the film is edge of your seat stuff – similar to Close Encounters of the Third Kind it keeps a sense of mystery about the otherworldly antagonist high by not showing it too soon and too often. It is a beautiful looking and gripping movie, with the tension and danger ramped up to an unsettling degree and it is refreshingly unpredictable. Despite the Spielberg-esque thrill ride explanation is not Nope’s strength, I do not like my hand held but it is left up to you to decipher most things – this sense of befuddlement is not helped by the fact that the film is jam packed with content.
Daniel Kaluuya is as impeccable as ever – he can say a thousand words with just an expression – and it seems he is becoming too Peele what Di Niro and Samuel L Jackson are too Scorsese and Tarintino. Keke Palmer plays his irritatingly upbeat sister well, her chirpiness is the perfect antidote to the surly OJ who carries the weight of the world on his shoulders. Steven Yeun’s cheery, can do attitude is a well made facade for coping with a troubled past. The comic relief comes in the form of the tech support and salesman Angel – played aptly by Brandon Perea.
An eclectic and ambitious ‘horror’ about spectacle and fame with tension, thrilling visuals and set pieces and lots of weirdness. Although its slow start, uneven pacing and lack of explanation does hamper it slightly.