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Review: ‘Nope’ is a UFO Mystery with a WTF-Worthy Twist

July 21, 2022Ben MK

With movies like Get Out and Us under his belt, Jordan Peele has built a compelling case for why he's one of today's most unique cinematic visionaries, in the process shedding his funny man image as one half of the hilarious comedic duo Key and Peele in favor of that of a serious auteur. Now, with his third and most ambitious film yet, Peele is determined to make it a three-peat. But will this unorthodox spin on the tried-and-true alien encounter thriller have moviegoers saying "Yes" all the way to the multiplex? Or does Nope inevitably prove to be more bluster and bravado than anything else?

Starring Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer as siblings OJ and Emerald Haywood, the story finds the pair barely recovered from a sudden tragedy before they're faced with a conundrum neither of them is prepared to confront. Days after their father, Otis (Keith David), is killed in a freak accident that sees random bits of small debris raining down from the sky above their Southern California horse ranch — where Otis owned and operated the family business, Haywood's Hollywood Horses — OJ spots something ominous in the night sky, accompanied by the unforgettable sound of eerie screams. Suspecting that what he saw was nothing short of a UFO, OJ and Emerald make a hasty trip to the nearest electronics store, as they plot to capture the extraterrestrial phenomenon on video. But when the unidentified object proves to be far more than just your run-of-the-mill flying saucer, the brother-sister duo must formulate a new plan — before they become its next victims.

Also caught up in the sinister, alien-themed chaos are retail worker Angel Torres (Brandon Perea) and child-actor-turned-tourist-trap-operator Ricky "Jupe" Park (Steven Yeun), two characters whose respective fascination with the mysterious presence among the clouds might just prove to be their undoing. But while Peele paints Angel as being essentially driven by boredom, he clearly has something more to say about Ricky, who left behind a burgeoning Hollywood career after surviving a bloody massacre on the set of a '90s sitcom involving a trained chimpanzee who ran amok. Now, Ricky runs a Wild West theme park called Jupiter's Claim, named after his most beloved movie role. However, when he sets out to exploit the UFO for profit and the amusement of his guests, he soon discovers that you can only tempt fate for so long before fate turns around and bites you in the rear.

Without divulging any genuine spoilers, the result doesn't so much follow in the footsteps of Peele's previous cinematic efforts, but rather appears to be inspired by the likes of Steven Spielberg and M. Night Shyamalan. Suffice to say, Peele isn't positioning Nope as a commentary on racial politics, even though the film does allude to themes of race in its subtext. Instead, the movie feels more like an extended and somewhat overlong version of a Twilight Zone episode — which also happens to be another project Peele has been involved with since departing Key and Peele — with viewers being lulled into a false sense of belief concerning where the story is headed, before the proceedings undergo a radical and never-before-seen twist, as the bizarre truth about the UFO is revealed.

From there, Nope evolves from a mystery into a tale of a predator and its prey. But while the film's climactic final act will no doubt leave many on the edge of their seats, there's also a certain element of danger missing that would have perhaps been present if Peele had taken a more traditional approach to the genre. As it stands, there's still much to be in awe of and plenty of WTF moments that will leave viewers' mouths agape. Ironically, though, it's these very same moments that also threaten to let the air out of the movie completely.

Nope releases July 22nd, 2022 from Universal Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of R for language throughout and some violence/bloody images. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 10 min.

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