‘NOPE’ is the third movie of Jordan Peele, a comedian who gained fame as a filmmaker when he directed “Get Out” and followed it up with “Us”, both big hits worldwide and both critically acclaimed. But personally, we found them both overrated.
“Get Out” reduced racial politics to horror with touches of comedy while “Us” is about a black family attacked by their doppelgangers with so many dragging parts. Some folks said then he could be the next Hitchcock, but he turned out to be more in the league of Shyamalan.
“Nope” is even more boring than his past two films. No wonder it’s the least successful of Peele’s films. The first two films earned $250 million plus worldwide, while “Nope” only earned $161 on a budget of $68 million. In contrast, “Get Out” had a budget of only $4.5 million and “Us”, $20 million. He gets more ambitious with each project and the result is the law of diminishing returns.
“Nope” is also the most tedious of his movies. It starts with a pre-title credits sequence that even quotes Nahum from the Bible. It’s 1998, at the studio taping of a sitcom called “Gordy’s Home”, a monkey who’s part of the cast kills most members of the cast when it was frightened by the sound of a bursting balloon. The whole sequence will be later shown in full in a long flashback sequence.
We then move to Hollywood Horses Ranch owned by Otis Haywood Sr. (Keith David) who trains horses used in movies and TV shows. When he dies after something fell from the sky and killed him, his kids: the introverted OJ (Daniel Kaluuya, the British-Ugandan actor who’s Peele’s signature actor) and the more outgoing Em (Keke Palmer, “Hustlers”) inherit their family business.
But they run into some problems and are forced to sell their horses to Jupe (Steven Yeung, “Minari”), who happens to be the child actor and only survivor in the “Gordy” monkey tragedy. He hid under a table while the monkey is killing his co-stars and survived when the monkey is shot by cops.
He now operates a theme park called Jupiter’s Claim and continues to exploit his connection with the Gordy massacre. At their ranch, OJ and Em notice some strange things occuring and see a flying saucer that has been sucking up their horses then expectorating hard objects and this apparently caused their father’s untimely demise.
Together with an electronic store technician, Angel (Brandon Perea), they put up cameras to record the UFO. Things get from bad to worse. While doing a live show in his theme park, Jupe tries to attract and bait the UFO, with disastrous results. OJ, Em, Angel and a cinematographer, Hoist (Michael Wincott), then team up to have a showdown with the alien.
The movie unnecessarily runs for more than two hours simply because Peele is so confused with his material that you’d wish the film is more coherent. He even tries to include a tidbit about American filmmaking. Em claims that the nameless horseman in Eadweard Muybridge’s series of motion-picture photos called “Animal Locomotion” is their great, great grandfather.
In fairness to Kaluuya, who has since gained a lot of weight since he did “Get Out” and won an Oscar for “Judas & the Black Messiah”, he remains to have a charismatic presence, effectively underplaying with only his big eyes often speaking volumes. In contrast, Palmer is often irritating and we often wished the alien would eat her, but she turns out to be the film’s real hero. For a movie that delves into the early days of moviemaking and a tragedy on the set because of a monkey that goes berserk, the last act is supposed to be an alien thriller flick that is just bloated and very messy.