- Run time: 2 hours 10 minutes
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Director: Jordan Peele
- Where to Watch: In Theaters
After the strange death of their father, OJ and Emerald Haywood begin to notice strange things happening at their family ranch. Mysterious objects falling from the sky, rolling blackouts, and clouds that don’t move start to plague their daily lives. Determined to capture the source of the high strangeness, the surviving Haywood’s install cameras with the help of an overzealous retail employee.
OJ Haywood (Daniel Kaluuya) works as a Hollywood horse trainer at his father’s (Keith David) company with his sister Emerald (Keke Palmer). When a freak accident occurs that results in the death of their father, OJ assumes responsibility of the family business. As the business starts to fail, OJ is forced to sell off horses to keep the doors open. One buyer, Ricky “Jupe” Park (Steven Yeun), offers OJ the same deal that he offered his father – to buy the ranch and all the horses. Jupe runs a sideshow amusement park across the way and could use the horses as attractions. Willing to make a deal with the devil to revitalize his business, OJ reluctantly sells off some of the horses. A few days later when OJ witnesses something strange at the ranch, he realizes that there is something sinister at work. His sister Emerald is not one to pass up an opportunity and together they attempt to capture evidence of what they think is happening at their ranch. Their hope is to use this evidence to restore their family legacy and to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself.
The story beats in Nope take advantage of audience expectations in some scenes and subverts them quite nicely in others. There are moments where the audience would expect OJ to run away screaming or cower in fear, but instead he stands his ground and refuses to let the moment take advantage of him. The subplot of Steven Yeun’s Jupe character is the main thing that would stand out to audience members as strange. It feels incredibly disconnected from the larger story for most of the run time. It does serve some purpose, but it was difficult for me to wrap my head around the intent until a few hours after the credits rolled. Without it, Nope would have had a somewhat noticeable gap. Overall, Nope has an impactful story with some subtle themes that take a few moments of reflection to work through. It is an enjoyable story coupled with plenty of twists and shocking reveals that make it one of the more enjoyable suspense thrillers of the past few years.
Daniel Kaluuya returns for his second go round with Jordan Peele as OJ Haywood. Kaluuya’s deadpan reactions and stoic facial expressions to the high strangeness occurrences around him make him the ideal leading man for this movie. Keke Palmer’s portrayal as Emerald Haywood is equally enjoyable. She’s bright, loud, fun, and creates an excellent foil for Kaluuya’s OJ. The two of them together create a realistic sibling relationship with each one vying for the temporary upper hand over the other. Keith David makes a brief appearance as the rugged, old cowboy who taught his kids what a hard days work looks like. His footprint is minimal on the story, but it’s great to see a veteran actor taking on roles in modern movies.
The rest of the supporting cast is rounded out by Steven Yeun of Walking Dead fame, Brandon Perea, and Michael Wincott. Yeun plays Rick “Jupe” Park, a grown child actor with a damaged past turned roadside fun park owner. Yeun is a pleasant sight in this movie, but his subplot is strange and confusing. It’s not until the rest of the puzzling story starts to fall into place that the audience begins to realize how it all fits together. Angel Torrest, an overzealous Fry’s Electronics employee, is played by Brandon Perea. He gets roped into the paranormal goings on at the Haywood Ranch when the Haywood’s install security cameras and quickly becomes the comic relief in this tension filled movie. Closing out the supporting cast is Michael Wincott, as Antlers Holst – a somewhat confusing character who is an overly dramatic documentarian hired to capture the strangeness on camera. The supporting cast is solid at the best of times and shaky at the worst of times. Nobody manages to replicate the relationship that Kaluuya and Palmer have, but they each manage to impact their own minor plot points to some extent.
Nope has a significantly higher budget than the previous Jordan Peele productions. Clocking in at an estimated $68 million according to IMDb, the movie feels like a real summer blockbuster. With expensive budgets, it is easy to dump a large percentage of it directly into the special effects department in an effort to create something jaw dropping. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions and those special effects often end up looking rubbery or blurry set pieces due to crunch in post production. But much to my surprise, Nope doesn’t have any easily noticeable flaws. The third act especially has some large set pieces that are really impressive. Without spoiling too much, the creature design is something akin to what you might see in Neon Genesis Evangelion. It is a shocking and almost trippy experience watching the characters realize what exactly they’re up against. The mark of a visually impressive movie for me is when I can’t tell if certain effects were practical or digital. And to my incredibly picky eye, I couldn’t discern which was which for most of them.
Following in the footsteps of its predecessors Get Out and Up, Nope is a bold and suspenseful story packed with plenty of Peele’s trademark thrills. Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer headline this shocking and subversive horror thriller along with a talented supporting cast of Keith David and Steven Yeun. Peele manages to keep the audience guessing as they lean forward in anticipation or recoil in horror at what they just witnessed. Released in theaters on July 22nd, Nope is a great summer thriller and is on track for box office success.