Review by Sean Boelman
Jordan Peele is one of the few remaining “event filmmakers” in that his name alone is enough to make any project he directs a draw. His third feature, Nope, is his biggest-budget so far, and those worrying that he would lose his sensibilities need not fear, because this is the smartest and scariest horror movie since The Thing.
Like Peele’s other films, it is nearly impossible to describe what Nope is about without spoiling the experience in some way. It’s the type of movie that is best experienced blind with as little of a preconceived notion of what it should be as possible. But it is, without a doubt, Peele’s most ambitious film yet, and it works.
Admittedly, the first act is extremely slow to start. At that point, it feels mostly like an homage to other classic sci-fi movies, and while there are some interesting ideas there, it’s not until the second act that everything begins to fall into place. There is one moment in particular in which everything basically clicks, and after that point, it is thoroughly captivating.
This is also Peele’s most thematically dense script yet. The metaphors in Get Out and Us were quite obvious, but Nope is much more nuanced and rich with its symbolism. Many viewers will likely leave the theater not quite understanding what they have just seen, but the message he has to say here is perhaps his most intriguing yet.
The character development also significantly contributes to the film’s success. Peele goes all-in on the central brother-sister relationship, and it provides a strong emotional core for the story to build off of. And surprisingly, the sidekick characters don’t feel like mere throwaways to serve as comedic relief.
Much of the praise for the cast is going to go to Keke Palmer, and while she is certainly very good in her role, the standouts are two other players in the cast. Daniel Kaluuya proves once again that he is one of the most gifted actors working today with a performance that is stolid on the surface but with a subtle vulnerability that makes it powerful. Steven Yeun is a scene-stealer as a former child star experiencing a great deal of trauma.
Peele has created what is arguably the most cinematic horror movie in years. The cinematography by Hoyte van Hoytema is fantastic, imbuing the film with a distinct Western flare. The CGI is integrated seamlessly and beautifully, with a design that is terrifyingly simplistic. Michael Abel’s score creates some wonderful tension as well.
After only three films, Jordan Peele has affirmed that he is probably the single most exciting filmmaker working in the horror genre today. Decades from now, people are going to look back at his movies, especially Nope, and hold them in the same regard as the classics.
Nope hits theaters on July 22.