Let’s talk about Nope.
Jordan Peele has some how become one of the most bankable directors around with just two films under his belt. In a time where cinemas are declaring bankruptcy, the industry is looking for as many things that can bring people to the big screen and ideally it’s not Marvel related. And yet Peele, who has released two horror movies up until Nope, is one of them. This is incredibly remarkable. Get Out was a huge breakout hit of course but while Us has its fans, it’s a far more divisive works which wasn’t as universally praised as his first. But still, his new film Nope was immediately hyped from the first trailer and people were desperate to see it. But should they have been?
OJ Haywood is a Hollywood horse trainer who lives out on a ranch with his father. His dad is mysteriously killed by falling metal and he soon becomes convinced that an alien is some how involved with this and various other mysteries in the local area.
So you do have to stick with this film. The first act is tremendously slow. After intriguing you with some chimp murder and then the aforementioned father death, this film really takes its time to set up all the pieces it needs for later on. It goes through its moments and character set-up seemingly as slowly as possible, as if to test you. I think it wants to see if you’re patient enough to understand the movie and it does feel like it’s just daring you to bail, to leave the cinema out of boredom or to turn it off if you end up trying to catch this on streaming later on. Yes, there’s some great acting involved and Peele directs everything great. But considering the mystery is answered pretty quick, it is aliens, and the line through is if OJ and his sister can get a picture of the aliens, you do just need to sit tight and hope things do get more intense later on.
Thankfully, it does. Things do start clicking when the second act gets going. The intensity starts to build with this mysterious alien ship starting to do things other than just float around rather menacingly. That said, you do end up a little bit distracted by the random backstory of a neighbouring character played by Steven Yeun. He was a sitcom actor when he was a child in the 90s and was in a show where a chimp was also part of the show. Problem is, that chimp went ape during filming and killed some cast members. Not only does this lead to an incredible point of view sequence which is somehow incredibly tense despite it being a flashback of a character we know is alive, but it’s just so out there that it will grab your attention. Peele also likes to throw bits of this in that first act as well which I think is his way of asking people to keep patience during that slow first act.
And when Peele gets going with some of his big set pieces, you remember what an incredible talent this man has behind the camera. You might also remember that he was famous as part of a comedy double act so you wonder what kind of horror film David Walliams could have made if he put his mind to it. The sequences in this film are absolutely stunning. To use every cliché that a film critic has in his sleeve, it keeps you on the edge of your seat and is just exhilarating to experience in the cinema. The twist is not mindblowing like it was in Us but it definitely makes everything in this film make sense when it deliberately confused you earlier on. And then when he gets the opportunity, Peele finds a way to truly horrify you and make you sick to your stomach. I’ll try to keep spoilers to a minimum but the inside of that alien ship is just nasty.
And then for every moan you can have about the first act being as slow as a nervous learner driver, the third act is simply brilliance. The first act sacrifices its pace and some of its enjoyment so that this third act can be as good as it is. Every thing that is set up ends up paying off and it as tense and exciting as it is also oddly beautiful at times. Again, it’s difficult to talk about because this is a film where you need to be somewhat blind to what is going to happen because otherwise it won’t have its full effect. The only annoyance I had was when a really stupid decision was made by a character that has no real explanation, something made worse by the fact other characters in this film make very intelligent choices throughout, or at least have stupid choices informed by their character. But other than this, this is an amazing ending sequence.
Nope is something brilliant. Jordan Peele has learned the lessons of his previous films by making something that is truly complex and will reward discussion and repeated viewings but while it keeping it simple enough that you can just watch it, get thrilled by it, and then just leave it as many cinema goers want to. This is absolutely horrifying, incredibly thrilling and will have you thinking about it for far beyond when you leave the cinema foyer. That first act will be a battle to get through for some and I can see some people bailing at it because it does take its time to get its hooks into you. But allow it some time because you will be rewarded. Make sure to yes to Nope.