Jordan Peele has quickly proven to be a filmmaker with a lot on his mind, which he then translates effortlessly to the screen. His intelligent writing for Get Out earned him an Oscar, and Us convinced audiences that Peele’s feature-length debut wasn’t just a fluke. Peele’s third film, Nope, allows the writer/director to expand his scope; both with his screenwriting and as a visual storyteller.
The less discussed about Nope, the better. That isn’t an aloof comment, but a compliment towards Peele’s ability to reward his audience’s trust. The filmmaker likes to provide clues for his viewers, and offers movie goers the chance to search a frame. So much of Nope takes place in the open ranch owned by Haywood’s Hollywood Horses, a family business that provides film and television shoots with trained horses. The Haywoods are played well by Keith David, Daniel Kaluuya, and a scene-stealing Keke Palmer. When “supernatural phenomenons” are suggested in the story, the vast scenery and unsettling sound design gives audiences a chance to discover the film’s secrets before the information is exposed in mysterious and compelling ways.
The characters in Nope have experienced “supernatural phenomenons”; including Ricky “Jupe” Park (Minari’s Steven Yeun), a former child star who now owns a flashy and gimmicky theme park close to the Haywoods, and because of everyone’s ties with the film industry, there’s a sense that these witnesses always feel like they’re performing in a bigger spectacle. They’re a bit part in their own lives as they’re examined (and hunted) by “the unknown”. This idea is explored more thoroughly with Park, though it feels like Peele is stalling Nope’s primary story to live in Ricky’s world. There’s so much material in the former actor’s life, it may have deserved its own movie rather than it be crowbarred into Nope.
Aside from that shared conflict that Peele identifies successfully, his latest horror-fantasy is also his most entertaining; offering audiences lots of intense action and foreboding, atmospheric creep-outs that will stay fresh in the minds of genre-loving movie goers.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie