No artist enjoys being compared to their last video, book, painting or film. Yet, it’s bound to happen when your latest project is one of the most anticipated films of the year. When Jordan Peele transitioned from sketch comedy artist to an Academy Award winning director with “Get Out,” the industry buzzed like bees around a hive. Conversations swirled around the social and political commentary embedded within the film and performances of its stars Daniel Kaluuya, Lil’ Rel and LaKeith Stanfield. History repeated itself with “Us” and Lupita Nyong’o. Now, we have “Nope,” which is once again proving to be his most divisive film to date.
True to form, Peele always drops some historical knowledge dripping with social commentary. In this instance, its the origins of Black cowboys and their importance/contribution to the western world. Yet, simultaneously, giving us a mini western, UFO storyline straight out of an episode of Rod Serling’s “The Twilight Zone.” Serling has long been a source of inspiration for the filmmaker and it has never been more apparent than in “Nope.”
Beautifully shot, this film will be remembered mostly for the electrified performance of Keke Palmer (Emerald Haywood), who never delivers a false note from the moment she hits the screen. Daniel Kaluuya (OJ Haywood) is a master of speaking volumes literally without uttering one single word. Those eyes and presence are his cinematic secret weapons. Steven Yeun as the former sitcom star turned carnival barker is engagingly raw and your heart breaks for unexpected twist and turns that occur out of sheer greed and miscalculation. Brandon Perea as Angel provides much needed humor with a film that straddles the genres of sci-fi, horror, thriller and western.
Nope is the type of film where you not only see the influences of Serling, but Spielberg with a little John Carpenter sprinkled in, but still leaves you scratching your head about what you have just witnessed.
The brilliance of Jordan Peele is he will always have audiences jacked up and in their feelings with his content. Naming the lead character OJ, who is running from aliens can be interpreted on so many levels it’s literally staggering. Or. having Emerald represent the millions in Hollywood with one dream, while engaging in multiple side hustles. The most prolific lesson is you can’t tame a predator, like Gordy (the psychopathic chimp sitcom star) couldn’t be controlled, the UFO that couldn’t be controlled or Holst, the eccentric cinematographer, who ultimately sacrifices himself for his art. There is so much to unpack and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Nope is deliciously divisive, yet subtly speaks to the predatory, egregious manner Hollywood preys on creatives for the sake of greed, money and fame. One may not be able to tame a predator, but we can embrace cinema that makes us have provocative, awe-inspiring conversations. In my opinion, Nope accomplishes all of that. Produced by Universal Pictures, Nope is in theaters right now.