“Nope (2022)“, Jordan Peele’s new “bad miracle” film offers a suspenseful and funny twist on Hollywood sci-fi — and serves as a meta love letter to filmmaking. Fans of Peele’s previous horror entries, Get Out and Us will likely enjoy the filmmaker’s latest offering; however, it’s worth noting that while Nope is still full of deep and layered ideas, the execution is closer to the horror-comedy mix of getting Out than Us (which, while deeper and more subtle, was a little harder for moviegoers to digest).
Thematically, everything ties together, but some plot threads are looser than others—the movie occasionally serves as an experience (laden with foreshadowing, homage, and clever tie-ins to film history) more than the plot.
Nope: Movie Review
Nope posits that an unnamed black jockey who featured in Eadweard Muybridge’s pre-film photography series, “The Horse in Motion,” established a horse training ranch to supply the burgeoning film industry with production horses. A generation later and Haywood’s Hollywood Horses are falling on hard times after a freak incident critically injures family patriarch Otis Haywood Sr. (played by Keith David).
Without their father to run the business (and fickle Hollywood producers who would rather use CGI than real horses in their productions), OJ Haywood (Daniel Kaluuya) and his younger sister Emerald (Keke Palmer) struggle to keep the ranch afloat – resorting to is selling off his beloved horses one by one to former child actor turned rodeo showman Ricky “Jupe” Park (Steven Yeun).
But when the Haywood horses start breaking out of their stables and disappearing into the night, OJ begins to notice an increasing number of strange occurrences and mysterious noises on the property – which just might provide an opportunity to save the ranch (in more ways than one).
Peele’s return to the director’s chair is a big success, shaking off fears that the filmmaker might stumble on his junior outing (mostly due to superficial pre-release comparisons between Nope and M. Night Shyamalan’s third horror film, Signs ). Nevertheless, Peele delivers a layered subversion of horror (and this time sci-fi) tropes with well-realized characters that once again recontextualize traditional white stories through a black POV—too funny and poignant results.
Where Get Out is Peele’s funniest and most accessible movie, and We Remain the filmmaker’s most ambitious and complex effort, Nope raises the bar in a number of interesting ways, perfectly balancing humor, tension, and validity, including several scenes that rely on masterful use of restraint and inaction. Without going into specifics, Peele’s conceptualization of the film’s main threat is at once haunting, beautiful, and genuinely disturbing, delivering a series of unique ideas and epic visuals that transform the film’s genre inspirations.
That said, Nope occasionally leans too heavily on homage and thematic juxtaposition—which, like any thoughtful film, rewards repeat viewers with interesting motifs to unpack. However, moviegoers hoping to turn off their brains for a fun horror thrill ride will find that select aspects of Nope (especially Gordy, the ape character played by Planet of the Apes actor Terry Notary) don’t directly connect.
Again, that’s not to say these elements aren’t worthy of inclusion (they absolutely are), but given the considerable amount of emphasis and running environment they’re given, they come at a high price for some viewers to pay—and a price that, as far as on these tangents, will leave certain viewers more confused than excited.
Peele’s previous films have provided a sampling of memorable characters as well as great acting, and Nope is no exception. Breakout Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya is back in the lead role of OJ — and it’s Kaluuya who sells some of the film’s most outrageous and tense scenes. Kaluuya plays OJ as stoic but gentle, which makes for an especially fun mix as the prickly character is thrown into increasingly bizarre situations (and a series of encounters with the villain’s malevolent threat).
The scene where the actor actually says “Nope” sums up why Peele’s take on horror is so refreshing – and, along with another intense scene with Kaluuya stuck in his truck, is sure to produce some truly cathartic laughs (in the face of impending death ).
Likewise, Keke Palmer (Scream: The TV Series) delivers a charming turn as Emerald – OJ’s aspiring actor-director-stuntwoman younger sister who is as outspoken as OJ is understated. She’s a scene-stealer and well served by Peele’s script and direction – which gives Palmer a rich character arc that unleashes a transformed and downright steely Emerald at the end of the film in the third act.
Supporting actors Brandon Perea, Steven Yeun, and Michael Wilcott are mostly limited to the exposition and comic relief, allowing Kaluuya and Palmer to shine. Still, Pere’s technician turned accomplice to OJ and Emerald, Angel Torres is exceptional – especially in his scenes and banter with Keke Palmer. Meanwhile, Yeun (The Walking Dead) is doing his best to turn show machine Ricky “Jupe” Park into a defined character; Unfortunately, the story of the child actor from Jupiter is heavily tied to a scene that creates a motive more than it supports the main plot. As a result, while Yeun has some great moments, his overall contributions are a bit of a mixed bag.
Nope is another clever and inventive twist on a staple genre from Peele. It’s packed with great performances and fun characters – who respond in unique ways to the film’s unique threat. Still, the selected aspects and characters do not close at the end, resulting in a film that flirts with interesting points but does not always provide a worthwhile return on the time spent.
Still, there’s no one who makes movies like Peele, and Nope is a welcome addition to his catalog — for all the reasons it might be too indulgent for some viewers, and plenty for fans to analyze and unpack.
Related – Know About Nope Movie Filming Locations