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Monday, May 27, 2024
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From: Silver Screen

REVIEW: ‘Nope’ reminds us that extraterrestrials are still sci-fi gold. Multiverse, who?

REVIEW: ‘Nope’ reminds us that extraterrestrials are still sci-fi gold. Multiverse, who?

“Nope” isn’t just dope; it’s the best sci-fi summer blockbuster in recent memory. Writer/director Jordan Peele completes his trifecta of vaguely titled films with a certified, sci-fi banger that proves he’s not afraid to innovate. Peele not only ups the scale and spectacle of his previous films but also roots into a signature style that defines him as the most versatile and exciting American filmmaker in cinema today. 

However, this isn’t another “Get Out” or “Us.” Yes, there are still disturbing, gruesome images that might make one's stomach churn. “Nope” takes a strong step away from the psychological horror genre Peele instantly became known for after his first feature. This film is science fiction at its core. 

The premise is simple: two siblings, OJ and Emerald Haywood — played by the sensational pairing of Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer — run Haywood Hollywood Horses, their failing family business that trains horses to work on film sets. When an unidentified flying object suddenly wreaks havoc over their ranch, they plan to record proof of its existence and get rich off the footage with the help of “Ancient Aliens”-obsessed tech salesman Angel (Brandon Perea) and edgy documentarian Antlers Holst (Michael Wincott). But after more encounters, the UFO is more than what it appears to be. 

With sci-fi filmmaking riding a fad of multiverse obsession, it’s honestly refreshing to have a weird — and more importantly, original — alien movie that shocks and awes. Even Denis Villeneuve’s “Arrival,” the last great non-franchise extraterrestrial blockbuster, was based on previous work

“Nope,” like Peele’s previous two films, is fueled by a tense, witty and Oscar-worthy original screenplay. After his legendary stint as one half of “Key & Peele,” comedy is naturally inseparable from all of Peele’s works and it shows: “Nope” has gag-worthy moments made even more memorable by Kaluuya and Palmer’s spot-on delivery. 

But unlike “Get Out” and “Us,” “Nope” has razor-sharp writing that is clean of exposition and thus open to interpretation and wonder. His previous films both have “gotcha” moments that essentially lay out what must be told to the audience, killing a lot of the narrative tension that each film had worked to build up. There’s none of that in “Nope,” as it moves seamlessly from scene to scene while trusting its visuals to relay information to the audience. 

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The cast is a highlight in all of Peele’s films, but “Nope” is likely his best ensemble yet. Since Daniel Kaluuya’s enthralling performance in “Get Out,” it’s clear that Peele excels at directing actors, especially when they are armed with his strong screenplays. The duo worked incredibly well together back in 2017, so much so that Peele called Kaluuya his “De Niro” in the middle of shooting that film, referencing the iconic collaborations between Martin Scorcese and Robert De Niro. Kaluuya returns and is solid as OJ, a stoic and quiet yet thoughtful brother/horse trainer. But Ms. True Jackson herself steals the screen as she puts in a performance that sizzles with passion, emotion and vulnerability. 

Above all, “Nope” is a visual joy to watch. Shots tend to hold longer to show an entire scale or emotion of a scene. For “Nope,” cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema — of “Interstellar” and “Dunkirk'' fame — tends to prefer tracking and panning over multicam set-ups and cutting; it’s an inspired choice that adds fluidity and movement to scenes that need it for audiences to feel the full force of alien entities. 

After a stellar debut and a solid second feature, few had doubts about the writer/director’s filmmaking abilities. With “Nope,” it’s safe to say that Peele is a complete storyteller who has total confidence in his vision. This film is perhaps the moment where he ascends to cinematic royalty, beamed up by the great American auteurs that came before. Call this film a continental breakfast, because I indeed ate it all up; see you at the IMAX theater for seconds. 

“Nope” releases in theaters today. 

tau@theeagleonline.com


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