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Nope (2022) Review

Updated: Oct 25, 2022

Editor’s Note: This review was published simultaneously with Carruthers, Leggeter & Whoever.

Has a writer, director and producer ever had more balls in naming their film than Jordan Peele? The bad reviews write themselves. Fortunately, such hack review naming is not gonna be an easy task here, after all once again Peele has crafted an elegant, heady in themes, terrifying-at-moments and deeply suspenseful sci-fi horror ride that is singular, a little messy, but overall very entertaining. And, of course, like all his films - which he so (hopefully) knowingly refers to as something more society focussed than horror or sci-fi - it is very, very thought provoking and something that instils wonder and thought for days and days afterward.


So I have a random rule that’s mostly just for my own wariness, it’s a stupid little rule of three sort of thing. After Us I had people come to me saying Peele was the very best in horror right now, just like Damian Chazelle following his first two major films, just like Robert Eggers, just like so many other up and coming auteurs. Each time I would warily say, “wait till the rule of three”. However it is such a great joy that these auteurs have repeatedly now pulled it off and delivered their brilliant third films. Only Ari Aster and Greta Gerwig, in my mind, remain this year to see if they can pull off the triple bill. The long and short of what I’m trying to get at is that sometimes we idolise these auteurs as auteurs whilst they are still, in my eyes, ‘brilliant debut directors’. It’s a scientific principle at the end of the day – two is a coincidence, three is a pattern - and thankfully with Nope, Peele has more than made a pattern. Working with Hoyte van Hoytema as his cinematographer, Nope is a film working on a far larger visual canvas than this previous two films, which could have been another cause for possible worry. However, not only is this Peele’s best looking film to date, but also one his most visually spectacular, almost certainly by design. For this is a film about, above all else, spectacle and entertainment at all costs. I’ll keep the plot mostly under wraps, as one of the great joys of this film was that I knew so very little heading into it. The film takes joyous tangents and narrative shifts that constantly keep the audience guessing, which is just so thrilling and hard to find in the current film landscape. Can I lie and say that the film maintained the enthusiasm I had for it at certain points, particularly enthusiasm engaged around these ‘tangents’? No, I can’t. However, this film’s strengths are so fervent and so entirely sensational that its negatives really are very few and far between. Not unlike any film of it’s nature with big shifts, I have no doubt second and third watches now that I know the overall path of the film will flow easier and be less… yes, at times, a touch disappointing. I also fear for one thing - I watched this in a beautiful big screen and this really is one of the better big screen experiences I’ve had in some time. However, my least favourite aspects of the film were perhaps these final big screen sequences (only because my love for some of the earlier stuff was so great, not because these sequences were not truly great in their own right). So for as much as I may enjoy the ride more, due to the fact I know where it’s going on a re-watch, I will undoubtedly enjoy the film less so on a small screen, due to the simple fact of just that, it is a smaller screen.


A sign of a great director is of course repeated great performances. Over the course of three films now Peele has garnered not only some of the great ensembles of actors all working very well, but particularly with Lupita Nyong’o in Us, just one of the single great performances of this decade. This film is no different, we have a spectacular ensemble that thrills at every turn and balances with great deftness the wonderful balance of comedy and drama that Peele’s films so joyously combine. Daniel Kaluuya, working once more with Peele, delivers a wholly different turn from his work in Get Out and marks the continuation of an actor-director relationship that excites me so very much. Keke Palmer is the film’s co-lead, as Kaluuya’s sister, and her arc is one more focussed in the narrative than Kaluuya. Her chance for drama is more frequent and she excels in these cases at every turn. However, Palmer’s best attribute in the film is undeniably her overwhelming energy, joy and spirit that gives the film the edge it needs to ride the tones it does so effectively. Both Keith David and Michael Wincott, as somewhat older statesmen genre figures in the cast, deliver in their moments so brilliantly that their shadow and effect can be felt throughout the rest of the film. They are two brilliant examples of smaller roles not exactly stealing the show, but certainly leading an audience to long for more. However, without a shadow of a doubt, my favourite performance in the film and one of my favourite performances of the year so far was that of Stephen Yeun, whose balance of eccentricity, under-playing, performance and complexities of emotions led to by far my favourite parts of the film and as aforementioned just plainly one of my favourite turns of the year so far.


A truly excellent 9/10 that grows and grows for me in estimation as each moment goes by. Although one can easily point towards Get Out being Peele’s best film pound-for-pound, I have to say that I preferred Us and even more so now I feel I prefer Nope too. These bigger, broader and more conceptual films do have the leeway that the narratives become messier and perhaps even overlong, however for me this is more than an easy give and take when it comes to the completely sublime, grand movie-making and brilliantly fanciful idea-driven screenplays we are receiving. I know there’s been a lot of snobbery from critics commenting on those people claiming Peele as the best horror director in history, as if he’s the only one who has ever made three great films back and to back – and although this is of course untrue, the fact still remains that perhaps there is no filmmaker currently working in the worlds of genre fiction that has made three more instantly iconic and instantly memorable films of this calibre. Long may it continue, please Mr Peele.


P.S. The middle 20 minute ‘Gordy’ sequence from the flashback to the TV set into the star lasso experience may very well be my favourite 20 minutes of film this year so far. I am amazed that there is a divide between people who think this is a bizarre and pointless short film that derails this narrative. Not only is this core, but this is by far the single best pair of sequences Peele has made thus far in his career, and they come quite literally back to back. I can’t deny that on a first watch, I was spoiled and the rest of the film did feel like a slight dip.

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