I’ve been hyped to see Nope since I saw the early trailers months ago. I’m a big fan of Jordan Peele’s previous work, including Get Out (also staring Daniel Kaluuya). Knowing it was shot on IMAX, I splurged to grab the upgraded viewing experience, mostly out of respect to the director. I can’t compare it to 2D, but the sound and full screen immersion was a great ride.
Kaluuya plays OJ (Otis Jr.) Haywood whose family owns a farm that trains horses for Hollywood movies. His sister Emerald (Keke Palmer) is begrudgingly part of the team that is having a hard time carrying on their father’s legacy after a freak accident kills him. A good portion of time upfront is distinguishing the siblings and developing their characters. We get doses of Emerald’s high energy and fun alongside OJ’s more patient and thoughtful work responsibilities. It’s an eerily slow build up with poignant flashbacks.
More strange occurrences erupt on the farm, including power surges and horses disappearing. The two gear up to document the visual phenomena and partner with Angel (Brandon Perea), a local tech installation guy. They anchor security cameras throughout the property to capture it, anticipating they will grab the money shot.
That is the first of several statements on the way our social world works now – in spectacle. We all know the “pic or it didn’t happen,” and our need to be the first on scene. Not to help, but to witness first hand and then to share and ultimately profit. Neighboring showman Ricky “Jupe” Park (Steven Yeun) takes it to the next level and creates a theme park exhibition surrounding it.
There’s a creepy backstory to Jupe, an ex-child star who witnesses his entire cast being mauled and beaten by a chimpanzee on live TV. This obviously makes him more famous than the show itself. It’s like the train wreck you can’t look away from. We’re either in front of the camera or behind the camera. It’s rare that we are just experiencing life.
Emerald brings in a famous DP (Michael Wincott) from a film they almost worked on to get the “impossible shot.” In case we haven’t caught the underlying meaning up to this point, they also throw in a faceless TMZ reporter. We get it – but honestly at this point the movie’s pacing picks up so much, we’re also saying “Nope” as the drama unravels. The music gets louder, the slow tension is releasing, and OJ deepens his understanding of the monster. The last 30 minutes are the best – but don’t let the beginning throw you off. And don’t for a minute think Otis Jr./OJ is an coincidence. We watched that white Ford Bronco race down the highway, too.
Big fan of Nope- the story, the film, the message. It’s not offering solutions, but a lens to see in from the outside. Maybe a warning. The monster feels like something you’d see in a dream. The fluidity of movement and shutter-like snapping as a precursor to capturing its prey at just the right moment. Daniel Kaluuya is calming perfection with Jordan Peele at the helm. Hat tip to new (to me) Brandon Perea for joining in on the fun and helping to bring back another song from my teenage years. And Keke Palmer who never misses a beat.