REVIEW: Nope (2022)

dir. Jordan Peele

Returning with his third foray into horror, director Jordan Peele explores another family dynamic – this time through the lens of extra-terrestrial science fiction.

Following the shocking and strange death of his father, OJ Haywood (Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out) inherits the family ranch and Hollywood stunt horse business. Struggling to bring in money he resorts to selling his steers to local cowboy theme park owner “Jupe” (Steven Yeun, The Walking Dead), a former child actor who suffered a terrible tragedy on the set of an animal-themed sitcom. During a night in which OJ spends time with his wayward sister Em (Keke Palmer – Hustlers, Lightyear) they discover the skies above are inhabited by something which will test their survival skills beyond comprehension.

The best fright films tend to be those made by horror fans, and Peele is definitely in that category. From his modern day nods to Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) and the Mirror Image (1960) episode of The Twilight Zone in Get Out (2017) and Us (2019) respectively, he’s a director steeped in genre, and Nope is no exception. Whilst extra-terrestrial tropes run the risk of falling into ridiculousness, in Peele’s hands this is managed expertly: drawing inspiration from B-movies like It Came From Outer Space (1953) and even a certain 1970s haunted house film, Nope is consistently fraught with tension and terror, the likes of which have barely been seen since Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979). 

Performance wise Kaluuya and Palmer are electric, their sibling chemistry exuding warmth and creating much needed breathing room against the oppressive atmosphere. Their dynamic also offers an interesting examination of grief and inherited responsibility that puts pressure on the children left behind.

A love letter to 1950s sci-fi which – as with Peele’s previous films – will also reach a wider audience, Nope‘s combination of stellar acting, incredible cinematography and awesome sound design makes this a cinematic experience that’s out of this world.

© Ygraine Hackett-Cantabrana

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