Facing your Fears with Nope

Daniel Kaluuya as OJ Haywood in Nope, written, produced and directed by Jordan Peele.

From the opening frames of Nope, you will know that this is not going to be what you expected it to be. The movie starts off with a chimpanzee all bloodied up after an incident on a ’90s sitcom show and then we fade to black to the present day. What did we just see? What is the story of Gordy the chimpanzee? What is going on in this movie?

The one thing about Nope is that it is not linear. The movie jumps back and forth in its timeline and is broken down into chapters. Each chapter gives us a clue into what we are watching and helps us get a better understanding of where this story is going. The chapters also give us insight into each of these characters. It is hard to give details about the plot without giving away too much of the movie. The trailers do a great job of giving you bits and pieces but never giving you the full story.

This is where the masterwork from Jordan Peele comes in. He is great at giving us just a taste of something and little by little giving us the entire meal. Once he gives us that final dish we ask ourselves “What just happened and how did I not notice that earlier?” Nope deals with many themes that mirror today’s society. The film deals with exploitation in the use of the horses that the main characters train for movies. We are informed at the beginning that OJ Haywood and Emerald Haywood played by Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer are descendants of chronophotography’s first Black jockey filmed riding on a horse.

The theme of exploitation is also featured in the character of Ricky “Jupe” Park played by Steven Yeun. Yeun plays a former child star who has been forgotten by the industry that once lauded him. He now runs a theme park called Jupiter’s Claim, which is named after a famous character he played in a hit film. Ricky runs the park with his family and has a show that can only be described as out of this world.

Steven Yeun as Ricky “Jupe” Park in Nope, written, produced and directed by Jordan Peele.

One thing that we learn about Ricky is that since he was exploited as a child star he uses that to try to harness this object that is in the sky. Just like he was able to control his simian co-star with a fist-bump, he feels he can control this being. He feels he can use his celebrity status to get the things he wants. This idea of celebrity is also a theme that is touched upon not only by Ricky but also by Emerald.

Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer are incredible in their roles and how they play off of each other. Daniel’s OJ does not really care for the limelight and just wants to do his job. Whereas, Keke’s Emerald wants to be in the spotlight. They are the perfect dichotomy of wanting to be known but still wanting that sense of anonymity. There are moments in the film when Daniel does what we all want our characters in horror movies to do; stop and just walk away. The use of the word “Nope” is perfect in these scenes and had the audience laughing as he would say it.

Keke Palmer’s presence on the screen is felt from her first scene to her last. She controls some scenes by using small gestures or words that do not seem like much but are really heavy in their usage. Emerald is the opposite of OJ by telling everyone about her talents and how she feels working in the family business is her “side job”. She wants to be a star and makes sure when she is on a set with her brother that she lets others know about her talents. Emerald is a strong character and she shows us and her brother how strong she is during the film’s final 20 minutes.

One of the stand-out characters in the movie is Antlers Holst played by Michael Wincott. Michael’s voice would make his motives in the movie feel sinister but we learn that as a cinematographer he is always looking for the perfect shot. The Haywoods reach out to Antlers to assist them in getting the unfilmable shot and getting this shot is reminiscent of Ahab trying to get Moby Dick. Wincott is not in a lot of scenes in the movie but in the few moments he is on screen his voice makes you pay attention to what is going on.

Technically, the film looks magnificent. Peele really took advantage of the IMAX camera and give you amazing shots that have you looking in the background for easter eggs or to see what is going to pop out at you. The sound would have to be the scene stealer of the movie. The combination of screams and ghost-like shrieks send chills down your spine and stay with you after the movie has ended.

Final Thoughts: Nope is a great callback to sci-fi movies from the early 60s where you did not see the monster/alien on the screen all the time. It is reminiscent of Jaws in the way the object hides in the clouds and comes out only at certain times. Nope will make your heart race and question people’s motives for doing what they do.

Kid-Friendly: The movie is rated R for language, violence, and bloody images. This is on a parent if they think their children can watch this. I would suggest this for children 13 and up. Again, there are some scenes that contain a bloody chimpanzee that might scare younger children. There is also a scene where it is raining blood on the house that might also be too much for younger kids.

Violence: The images of a bloodied chimpanzee are the only signs of violence in the movie. Although we do not see what occurs, we hear what is going on and that might be scarier than seeing the images themselves.

Oscar® winner Jordan Peele disrupted and redefined modern horror with Get Out and then Us. Now, he reimagines the summer movie with a new pop nightmare: the expansive horror epic, Nope

The film reunites Peele with Oscar® winner Daniel Kaluuya (Get OutJudas and the Black Messiah), who is joined by Keke Palmer (HustlersAlice) and Oscar® nominee Steven Yeun (MinariOkja) as residents in a lonely gulch of inland California who bear witness to an uncanny and chilling discovery. 

Nope, which co-stars Michael Wincott (HitchcockWestworld) and Brandon Perea (The OAAmerican Insurrection), is written and directed by Jordan Peele and is produced by Ian Cooper (UsCandyman) and Jordan Peele for Monkeypaw Productions. The film will be released by Universal Pictures worldwide.

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