Is it possible to tame a predatory animal? This is one of the questions at the heart of Jordan Peele’s latest feature. Within the first five minutes, Peele’s evolution as a director of visual precision and awe is made stunningly clear. Objects fall from the sky, blood drips to the ground and eyes flash with terror.
In a recent interview, Peele claimed Daniel Kaluuya as his “DeNiro.” The promise of these two working on more projects is exhilarating, but something about the label also attests to Kaluuya’s strengths. His focus, complex interiority and ability to make the smallest beats loom large is a quality he shares with his nickname. Yet, as proven here, Kaluuya is one of the most transformative and compelling actors on the modern screen. His work is complimented well by Keke Palmer, who makes a true firecracker out of Emerald Haywood. She dazzles, delights and commands each line in her arsenal. The sibling dynamic between her and Kaluuya is authentic and endearing.
The supporting cast serve their roles with excellence. Steven Yeun brings a sense of unnerving calm while Michael Wincott provides a familiar Hollywood cynicis, but it is Brandon Perea – in a breakout role rewritten for him because of his audition – who steals every scene he’s in. I hope we’re about to see him in a lot more films.
The film is broken into distinct chapters, each dealing with a certain character in the story – I’ll leave the category of character to your discovery. This is Peele’s most balanced screenplay, combining the intelligence of Get Out with the visual storytelling of Us into satisfying measurements of both. Michael Abel returns with a classic-sounding score in the theme of John Williams. Nicholas Monsour brings his cutting expertise from Us to greater heights, pacing the film to near perfection. Hoyte Van Hoytema is the star of the show, shooting with massive scope and highlighting the ominous mystery of shadows and clouds. The night sequences are one of a kind. Also, kudos to the VFX team for designing some of the most beautiful extraterrestrial concepts I’ve ever seen.
I’ve read a lot of reviews complaining about the film either not adding up or becoming too simple. It’s the same argument lodged at Us – which is albeit a more ambiguous film. Point is, Peele is evolving and as his ideas and visual language grow, we should too. Get Out was great, but the meaning was easy to swallow. With Nope, Peele has asked us to consider the price of spectacle, the promise of fame, tokenism and all mammals’ innate desire for dominance. In conclusion, it’s just a bloody good time at the movies with lots of great laughs and messed up themes, one I will not soon forget. See it on the big screen!
NOPE is now playing in Theaters Everywhere