by Miguel E. Rodriguez
DIRECTOR: Jordan Peele
CAST: Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Brandon Perea, Michael Wincott, Steven Yeun, Keith David
MY RATING: 7/10
ROTTEN TOMATOMETER: 83% Certified Fresh
PLOT: Residents of a lonely gulch in inland California bear witness to an uncanny and chilling discovery.
After watching Nope, the third feature from Jordan Peele (Get Out, Us), I found myself curiously unable, or unwilling, to sit down and write a review for it. What more can I add, I thought, to the volumes that have already been written about it? What insights can I share that aren’t revealed in the making-of documentary on the Blu-ray? How can I analyze a movie that can literally be boiled down to, “What if Close Encounters turned into Jaws?” What good would it do to figuratively take this movie apart and critique its individual components? It’s a roller-coaster, pure and simple, much like Jurassic Park III . How do you review a roller-coaster ride and try to compare it to other roller-coaster rides in terms of a review?
“I found the first hill of Rip-Ride Rocket much more intense than the slingshot approach of Hulk or Rock-N-Rollercoaster, but each has something to offer in terms of inversions, smoothness, and on and on and on…”
It just feels pointless, for reasons that are proving themselves difficult to pin down. So, instead of a “normal” review, here are random thoughts, in no particular order:
- The “true” nature of the UFO – oops, sorry, UAP, I had to look that up – stretched my disbelief suspension to the limit, but I will admit, it’s certainly original. I can’t think offhand of any other movie or book I’ve watched or read that even considered that explanation for all those unexplained sightings in the books. Once that was established, every successive appearance of the “spacecraft” became even more ominous and/or menacing.
- I loved how the movie is littered with clues or easter eggs that either give a hint to the film or sort of comment on what we’ve seen before. There is an early scene when OJ (Kaluuya) and Em (Palmer) are walking outside with a magnificent setting sun behind them behind the clouds, and hand to God, I remember noticing one particular cloud that looked…off. Also, there’s another scene when a horse runs off and OJ watches it through the gaps of a wooden shed, and the visual impression is that of a zoetrope, the machine that made the opening images of the running horse possible. Or even look at the screenshot at the top of this article…quick! What does that lampshade look like to you?
- There was something about the design of the UAP that bugged me throughout the movie, not necessarily in a bad way, but it just seemed weird. Why would something that is [SPOILER REDACTED] need what looks like fabric when seen up close? Is it a sail? That seems most likely. In the latter stages of the movie, the “anomaly” doesn’t seem quite as mobile or speedy as it did when its “sail” was intact. It’s an interesting design concept.
- One of the scariest moments for me had nothing to do with the UAP itself. It’s the scene in the exhibition area where the lights seem to be turning on by themselves. The payoff for the scene seems predictable in hindsight, but as the scene progressed, I was BESIDE myself. You can ask my best friend, Marc, who watched it with me. When that shapeless mass by the light switch suddenly started to “unfold”, I echoed OJ: “Nope! Gotta go, goodbye!” It is a brilliantly executed scene.
- I’ll need to watch the movie again to fully understand how that little parachute managed to scare off the UAP. I assume it has to do with actual horse training, and with some research I could find the answer myself, but the movie does very little to explain it to the viewer. Or maybe it does. Like I said, I need to watch it again.
- I loved how the flashback with the chimpanzee seems utterly incongruous at first. And I loved how creepy and horrifying it is. It’s a brilliant framing device (if I’m using that term right) that kept me guessing as to its real purpose right up to the end, or CLOSE to the end. And did I mention how horrifying it is? That moment when it’s resting…and then looks RIGHT AT THE CAMERA…chilling.
- Someone somewhere had said that Keke Palmer was robbed of an Oscar nomination. With all due respect to Ms. Palmer…she did an admirable job, but I didn’t see anything in the film that would have had me reaching for my Oscar ballot. But I will give her props for her opening speech to that film crew. The special features on the Blu-ray reveal that she delivered MANY different variations (fourteen, according to IMDb), much like you see so many other actors do in broad comedies, just to find the exact right version or take.
- Much like Us, Nope feels like it bit off a little more than it could chew when it comes to the resolution of the film. Everything leading up to the last 10 minutes or so is gangbusters, honestly, even the silver-helmet guy. But as everything started to wrap up, I began to feel as if I’d seen all this before, just in different ways, in many different films. Perhaps I’m being unfair. Perhaps I’m criticizing the movie for what it isn’t instead of reviewing what it is. I don’t know. As it is, also like Us, Nope is one helluva roller-coaster ride that ends, not with a bang, but with a “pop.”
- Allow me to shamelessly quote Roger Ebert, again: “If you have to ask what something symbolizes, it doesn’t.”