Director(s): Jordan Peele
Writer(s): Jordan Peele
Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Brandon Perea, Michael Wincott
“What’s a bad miracle?” OJ Haywood (Daniel Kaluuya) utters this to his sister Emerald (Keke Palmer) after witnessing an unexplainable event in the sky 6 months after a tragedy has left him and his sister to care for his family ranch: Haywood Hollywood Horses. Down on their luck and running out of money, OJ and Emerald, with the help of Angel (Brandon Perea) and Antlers (Michael Wincott), devise a plan to capture the occurrence on camera and profit off of the phenomenon.
From the very first scene, there is a feeling that writer/director Jordan Peele has crafted something spectacular with his newest outing. The former Key and Peele co-star turned Oscar winner almost overnight, has been raising the stakes and the scale for each of his first three films. Not only is his third a masterclass on horror filmmaking – some clever and powerful homages to classic horrors work spectacularly – and one of the finest blockbusters in recent memory, but it might also be his best so far. Peele, on purpose, write something that was so ambitious that he never thought it would actually be brought to life on the screen.
He needed someone who could create the world in which he envisioned, and shot, in IMAX, by the legendary Hoyte Van Hoytema, and frequent collaborator of Christopher Nolan, he found the perfect person to bring this to life. As the Haywood siblings get closer to uncovering the truth behind this unexplainable phenomenon, the film grows larger. Hoytema’s impressive cinematography added in with some of the best VFX and sound work of the entire year, this film is a masterpiece from a technical standpoint and even begs the question of why some of these larger budget films don’t have visuals that can rival the ones here.
As the film continues to unravel, the message of the story becomes more clear. This is not one of Peele’s deepest scripts – it’s nowhere near the cultural significance of Get Out nor the ambiguity of Us – but it serves its purpose in the story just as effectively. As with most blockbuster films, the story could have remained simple, and in this case, as simple as man vs. beast; while Peele does dive into these topics, it isn’t as much man vs. beast as it is man attempting trying to tame the beast. It’s a similar story that is given in classic Spielberg films like Jaws and Jurassic Park of attempting to take this spectacle and make money off it in any way possible. However, in classic Jordan Peele form, he can’t make a film with no meaning and provides a story of trauma and how people can profit off intensely traumatic events.
When it comes to the scares, NOPE ramps it up even more than Peele’s previous two outings. While Us and Get Out might have had a more horrifying concept, this one includes moments so anxiety-inducing and stressful, that one can really see Peele’s growth as a filmmaker, especially in the horror genre. He doesn’t need many of the common horror “scare tactics:” jump scares, body horror, gross imagery, and instead is able to pull fear from just being in the room and in the same area as these characters.
NOPE is a cinematic achievement for the ages. Peele raises the scope, scale, and scares to deliver one of the best horror blockbusters in quite some time. This film might not win over everyone when it comes to the story alone, but the messaging and motives are present, and when it comes to the techs alone, you won’t find much better this year.
2022 Film Rankings
Jacob is a film critic and co-founder of the Music City Drive-In. He is a member of the Music City Film Critics’ Association and specializes in the awards season. You can find him on Twitter @Tberry57.
Leave a Reply