In February of 2017, moviegoers flocked to the theaters to watch Jordan Peele’s directorial debut Get Out. It didn’t take long for it to become an instant classic, and the comedian’s fans soon realized how much he was capable of. Get Out racked up acclaim, culminating in Peele’s win for Best Original Screenplay at the 2018 Academy Awards. Fans were itching to see what was up next for Peele and two years later, he released yet another stunning film, Us. It was another opportunity for movie lovers to immerse themselves in the creepy, unhinged world that the horror director so masterfully creates. NOPE is the newest film written and directed by Jordan Peele. The mysterious poster had fans in a chokehold last summer, and the excitement only heightened after the eerily vague trailer hit screens.
NOPE stars Oscar winner Daniel Kaluuya and the ever-talented Keke Palmer. The two play Emerald “Em” and OJ Haywood, siblings and the owners of Hollywood’s only Black-owned horse ranch. After their father dies, a mysterious force begins terrorizing their ranch and the pair make it their mission to get the inexplicable activity on tape. Throughout which, they are met with technical difficulties and a jaded Hollywood cinematographer. They recruit the help of tech salesman Angel (Brandon Perea), who geeks out over the suspected alien sightings.
The performances in the film are superb. Daniel Kaluuya has a way of sinking himself into his character that feels genuine and lived in. There are moments in the film where his character doesn’t say much, yet there is a lot to be communicated via his reactions to the world around him. Keke Palmer absolutely crushed her role as Em. Her character provides much of the comedic relief in the story, but Palmer does a great job of making us laugh while also communicating the emotional intensity of each scene.
It is evident that this film was a huge collaboration among the many departments. Everything from the cinematography, to the set building and sound design is on point. The movie was shot on 65mm Kodak film. The choice to shoot on IMAX format is clear as day because that is how a grand spectacle as this is meant to be seen. The vastness in the picture adds to the creepiness of the Haywood Ranch because you feel as if you are being swallowed, and that there is no place to hide.
NOPE, compared to Get Out and Us, takes its time in harnessing the attention of the audience. It is much more of a slow burn, but Peele does a wonderful job holding the audience’s attention and keeping them on the edge of their seats. The film is layered in so much ambiguity in the first and second act, but the pace certainly picks up in the third act and we are immersed in a whirlwind of chaos. The production value is clearly elevated in this film, in comparison to the others. Peele has notably expressed his desire to create a spectacle, as he has become anxious about the future of cinema. His inspirations are clear, because NOPE delivers on the excitement and thrill of iconic films like Jurassic Park and King Kong. Considering his short yet ever evolving filmography, Peele has matured with each film of his and NOPE showcases this.
In addition to Peele’s ability to create original, jarring stories, he has also made it his mission to make space for Black people in the horror genre. So often, horror films will feature only one Black character who is given hardly any lines and has no real significance to the story. Peele has featured primarily Black leads for each of his films and writes from a personal experience that Black communities can relate to. This is the case with the choice of naming the film NOPE, as Peele explained that when it comes to horror films and the situations characters find themselves in, Black filmgoers will not indulge or entertain the creepy haunting force. They’ll gladly watch from afar while the others seek out the monster. It’s choices like this and the metaphors within Get Out that draw a huge appreciation for the director.
As with Get Out and Us, fans were already forming theories before NOPE hit theaters. The marketing team at Monkeypaw Productions did a great job of keeping fans in the dark and refraining from revealing too much about what this story could possibly be. That, of course, didn’t stop fans from taking to the internet to give their two cents. This film may take fans more time to truly dissect it for all it is. It may take a few watches to catch the many interwoven details hidden within the story, which may prove the film’s point: that we flock to chase a spectacle and make sense of what we don’t understand.
NOPE is instrumental in creating space for more original stories in cinema. In an age where theaters are hanging on by large budget blockbusters, it’s exciting to see a film that steps outside the box and reminisces on what an event it is to go to the movies.