Having recently proved himself to be that of a modern horror auteur, Jordan Peele is back once again with yet another mind-boggling and cinematically stunning feature in the form of ‘Nope (2022)’. Marking his third solo entry from the directors’ chair.
Whether it’s Get Out (2017), Us (2019), or Nope (2022). Jordan Peele has effortlessly become one of the household names in modern horror cinema. With his distinctive iconography, and willingness to constantly push boundaries and think outside the box, each feature Jordan Peele has created so far, has surpassed the last in regards to ambition and thought provocation.
He is not only a filmmaker constantly shrouded in mystique and awe but one that pushes for new genre conventions and an open advocate for restructuring the casting process when it comes to pre-production. His ballsy-ness and pursuit of the unknown has allowed him to create a subform of filmmaking that sets his craft far apart from the predecessors before him.
Peele’s latest creative endeavor Nope (2022), for some, may have been a step too far into the unknown. With the director opting to exchange societal political metaphors and themes for a more extraterrestrial and surreal plot line. One of which, many can’t seem to make sense of.
The official teaser trailer, which was released earlier this year, teased fans with an ominous mise-en-scene followed by the defamiliarised shots of cowboy-fit characters being chased down by aliens. It never quite made sense, but at least fans had the hopes that the feature itself would fit the puzzle pieces together.
Nope, tells the story of Daniel Kaluuya’s OJ Haywood and Keke Palmer’s Emerald Haywood. Two siblings left to take over their father’s horse ranch following his death. From the get-go, the two take on a new level of responsibility, now running Hollywood’s only Black ran horse ranch. Now, whilst this sounds like the grounds for a hard-hitting family drama, it wouldn’t be a Jordan Peele film without a few twists and turns of absurdity. Queue, Aliens.
The strange thing about OJ and Emerald Haywood’s father is that the two believe he was abducted and killed by aliens, aliens which have been analyzing their behaviour, hovering over their home and fields every other night. Convinced. The two set out with a plan to obtain and capture footage of the first ever real UFO sighting. Of course, nothing ever goes to plan in films, and instead, the duo and those involved find themselves biting off a whole lot more than they can chew.
The teaser which reveled in its ambiguity fails to follow through in its feature expansion with the film being left, feeling like it has more style than substance. Following the release of Nope, in an interview with ET Online, Kevin Frazier questioned whether or not Peele purposefully liked to create films with confusing themes that often left viewers exasperated, to which Peele replied:
“I like to make a movie that you can watch in a different way, You can watch and analyse and talk with your friends or you can just kinda shut off and watch, and have a good time. When people tell me they watch the movie over and over again, I’m fascinated with that because every time they watch it, I feel like they watch it in a different way.”
Whether or not fans are left satisfied upon viewing Nope is one argument, regardless of plot sensibility, there’s no arguing that Jordan Peele is one of few modern directors that release after release, still holds a magnetism to his work.
The magnetism is evident in the box office success from all of his features to date. With Hollywood currently oversaturated with franchises and remakes, original screenplays are seemingly becoming a relic of the past. But in those original screenplays that remain, Peele’s name can be found.
Following its opening haul in the states, Peele’s Nope (2022) marked the highest-grossing box office opening for an original screenplay, since his last release Us. With Nope drawing in a total of $44 million in the states alone.
A tell-tale sign that Peele has come a long way since the indie horror debut Get Out.
Nope, unlike its predecessors, shies away from the obvious cultural and political themes found in the later releases, and instead, focuses on the obsession mankind has with the spectacle. Whether that’s the spectacle and mystery of the unknown, obsession with action-packed set pieces, or our fascination with discovery. Peele takes elements of cinematic excellence and filmmaking history to craft a Spielberg-Esque Twilight Zone ride of a movie.
Drawing inspiration from the first ever moving image — The Horse in Motion by Eadweard Muybridge. Peele creates an alternative satirical reality in which the Haywood family is related to the famous Black man featured in the aforementioned first moving image.
The statement Peele aims to make, however, falls short in retrospect to Nope’s entirety. Instead, the sci-fi extravaganza feels as though it was based on the profound concept of where the Black man’s family is now, and how people pay regard to Eadweard Muybridge ( the moving image pioneer) rather than the actor featured. The aliens and set pieces that follow just seem out of place in what is a technically excellent disaster class.
Now, there is no denying that Jordan Peele’s features to date, have shown that he is a filmmaker of iconographic quality. Each film holding iconic and memorable scenes and monologues. The motifs and themes are distinct throughout all. But unfortunately, with Nope, it seems like less would’ve been more.
The performances throughout are flawless with Kaluuya delivering yet another tour-de-force performance, proving that both Peele and Kaluuya are a match made in heaven. The plot, however, never comes full circle and the metaphors found in Nope, don’t have the same impact or purpose as those found in Peele’s earlier entries.
It feels as though, at this stage, Peele is trying to recreate himself as the new Spike Lee, but instead of becoming an auteur of neo-realist cinema, he is instead trying to recreate modern horror genre conventions. But unfortunately, with Nope, Peele falls incredibly short.
Cinematically and performance-wise, Nope is far superior to Peele’s sophomore release, US. However, in regards to plot and plant and pay off. The ideas teased and concepts introduced, never quite come full circle, and instead, fans are left with a vague storyline that at times feels as barren as the desert it’s set in.