NOPE (FILM REVIEW)

“They don’t make them like they used to” is something often said about things manufactured in the new millenia. Appliances, furniture, or even food would sometimes be candidates for this critique. With a calendar full of formulaic or franchise fodder, one might say the same about cinema today.

Jordan Peele though, is different. He approaches his movie projects in an encompassing and deeply-involved way, with an intensity that makes him one of the rare talents stepping forward from this generation. The guy still crafts films, and his efforts always pay off.

His first feature Get Out arguably changed casting culture and redefined the urban horror genre. The sophomore Them disturbed with an inventive plot playing with deep-seated psychological tropes. The audience that goes in watching a Peele film is never the same coming out. With his sharp yet relevant twists, some might call him the new Shyamalan. But his sound approval from critics and audience, combined with his box office success, puts him comfortably ahead.

The third project for Peele, Nope has yet again introduced mind-boggling imagery to tease its audience. Soon enough, the early teasers gave way to fuller details, revealing the third theme to be about UFOs.

But true to Peele’s stylistic executions, the imagery conjured through clever cinematography is beautiful, puzzling and horrifying. His framing, lighting and placements shows a filmmaker that truly is one step ahead of the audience, as he draws out our natural deductions and wonderfully subverts them. And in one particular reveal during the film, the slow dawn of realisation is excruciatingly enjoyable.

Of course, a stellar narrative can’t be done without a charismatic cast, and protagonist Daniel Kaluuya and his sister (Keke Palmer) knock it out of the park. As squabbling siblings who find common cause in capturing footage of alien sightings at their ranch to save it, the duo often play well bouncing off each other. Angel Torres (Brandon Perea), the electronic store staff slash alien conspiracy theorist who hijacks their project, adds an enjoyable levity to become a trio.

And while the incredible Steven Yuen leads a separate arc to the story – as important as it is – his performance feels the weakest of the lot. His back story felt a touch manipulative, and the connection didn’t fully land for me when it comes to his reactions and motivations. But it could just be me being obtuse.

Nope falters too a little in the last act. Peele seemed eager to deliver too many commentaries all at once within the last 20 minutes. And for some of them, they are wrapped up as quickly as they came. While this does not distract from the greater story, it does end with quite a few questions left hanging. Is it satisfying still? Yes. Will I ever work out all the nuances he’s trying to inject (from exploitation to movie-making) into the film? Probably not. But nonetheless, the title will always remain a-Peele-ing (sorry) for its audacious imagination, precise crafting and a wicked, wicked soundtrack. 

So much splendour and filmic finesse, that weaker portions are washed over for the entire’s entertainment value.

3.5*

First published: www.movieXclusive.com

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