Nope (2022): Review
Nope is the latest snappily named thriller written and directed by Jordan Peele, following on from his excellent work with Get Out and Us. This one is much less of a horror than those previous, instead nope is an intriguing slow-burn sci-fi that is at its best when delivering moments of spectacular imagery and gripping tension. Occasionally the movie offers glimpses into potential twists and directions in the story that leave you wishing they had been explored more but on the whole, the patience asked of the viewer in the early stages is paid off satisfyingly and gives an enjoyable experience.
The story is centred around two siblings, brought to life by Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer, owners of a remote horse ranch, who begin to notice some unusual supernatural activities going on. I won’t reveal any of the details of what those activities are as the mystery and intrigue is one of the plot's biggest strengths. This is the kind of movie that’s best to go in as blind as possible and uncover what’s happening as the movie makers intended. The plot does unravel at quite a slow pace which for some may be too slow, but I found that for the most part, it finds the right balance, and this slower-paced storytelling works to successfully build tension and suspense.
The two leading stars give fantastic performances, portraying very different personalities. Daniel Kaluuya’s OJ is the more stoic and quiet of the two, and when events crack his strong exterior, his subtle and emotion-filled expressions sell it perfectly. Keke Palmer’s Emerald is the much more extroverted of the two. This is demonstrated well in an early scene involving her character taking over and salvaging her brother’s attempt at pitching their horse business to a movie studio, delivering the same pitch with much more energy and vigour. Her charisma shines through and It sets up the dynamic between them perfectly. The supporting cast also does a great job and successfully makes you care about a number of the characters, with special shoutouts for Brandon Perea and Steven Yeun’s roles. Despite only having minimal screen time they bring a lot to the story and add some good intriguing side plots along with the main mystery.
What sells it all though is the fantastic cinematography and direction. As you would expect if you have seen Jordan Peele’s previous work, there is a lot of really striking imagery here, and although there aren’t a lot of scares, when they do lean into the horror aspect the movie shines. The imagery is visceral, and compelling and brings an otherworldly sense. The style lends itself perfectly to the sci-fi genre where the otherworldly and unusual visuals heighten the intrigue and leave you wanting to uncover the mystery along with the characters. All of this is backed up and completed by an excellent soundtrack. No good sci-fi is complete without a great score and those behind the music design here deserve special mention for creating the perfect tone to match the visuals.
Throughout the movie, there are several moments of really strong tension and I particularly liked the way they give just enough away to draw you in but leave enough unseen so as not to shatter the intrigue. It’s always a tough balance to find and this movie does it well. It begins subtly and builds slowly, drip-feeding more clues throughout with lingering camera shots and slight glimpses here and there. Escalating up to some spectacular moments.
What does hold the movie back somewhat however is that it doesn’t always let you follow down the rabbit holes you want it to. It teases some interesting ideas and plot points but stops short of fully expanding on them, instead staying on the main path it sets out. As a result, these scenes do add a lot of great flavour to the story but also feels a tad anticlimactic. It left me with a sense of wondering what else there was to see and when the credits rolled, I had enjoyed everything I had seen but was left with the lingering thought there was more to be told here that wasn’t fully explored.
Overall Nope is a very solid and entertaining sci-fi flick that will particularly appeal to anyone who likes a slow burn and enjoys the build-up of tension and exploring a supernatural mystery layered with some social commentary. It can occasionally feel like there is more to see and doesn’t fully deliver on some of the potential it sets up, but the journey from beginning to end is still well worth a watch and undoubtedly beautiful to look at.