Nope (2022) is Jordan Peele’s most controversial project. Its characters and plot have sparked divisive conversations amid audiences. The film follows OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald (Keke Palmer), two sibling wranglers of the Haywood Hollywood Horses family business. Along with a tech employee, Angel (Brandon Perea) and Jupe (Steven Yeun), a former child actor, the group discovers an uncanny, chilling message in the skies above a lonely gulch of inland California.
I had a lot to digest after watching the film. Its scenes are emotional, metaphorical, and harrowing. Peele establishes the film as a critique of the human need to tame non-human beings and turn them into spectacles for fortune and entertainment. From the horses, to Gordy the Chimp, to “the thing” in the sky, the characters spend the movie trying to tame natural predators—before things backfire to the highest degree.
The overarching theme of Nope critiques the human desire to document tragedies to the point where we simply cannot look away. We’ve become so desensitized to horror that our first instinct is to film it and obtain the “impossible shot” for profit, fame, and pure curiosity. In Nope, the needs to tame and exploit become tragic downfalls. The characters realize that there is no way to conquer territorial predators without them fighting back.
The main group of characters in the film is complex, dynamic, and their personalities clash despite their ventures towards the same goal. Jupe views animals as things to be conquered, OJ understands animals better than humans, while Emerald is a stir between the two—she has Jupe’s social skills and charm with OJ’s empathy. Angel acts as a parallel to the audience—he’s curious and just wants to be included. The actors portray their roles exquisitely. There are no awkward or cringe-worthy moments in their line deliveries, and their presence on screen feels like they are physically in the room.
The computer-generated imagery (CGI) is the most spectacular part of the film. The in-sky, daunting images are designed and displayed with seamless and horrifying beauty. The “thing’s” unique shapes and forms are unlike other sci-fi figures in Peele’s past films.
The film’s cinematography is unparalleled. Jordan Peele’s use of varying camera angles allows audiences to focus and pay attention to singular objects in pristine detail. The most haunting shot in the film shows “the thing” raining blood on the farmhouse while screams echo through the night sky. It is chilling but so deeply mesmerizing. The cinematography, along with the eerie and loud soundtrack, evokes feelings of suspense and unshakeable fear. Jordan Peele has mastered horror in a way that hasn’t been seen in years.
While the film’s themes, characters, and cinematography are brilliant, audiences felt that the plot was slightly confusing and overly daunting. Many audiences do not seem to understand the film, causing quite adverse reactions. Though the plot may not be clear, it prompts audiences to critically evaluate their own behaviours and mindsets. Peele’s artistry leaves spectators thinking about the film long after leaving the theatre—a genius move.
Jordan Peele’s films are original, authentic, and thought-provoking. As one famous review said, “This movie does for cloud spotting what jaws did for swimming,” and that is true cultural impact. If you’re looking for something to watch in theatres, I suggest Nope. If you get around to it, some motifs to look out for are: monkey paw (literal and figurative) and one eye.