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  • Writer's pictureS.J.

'Nope' Review: Jordan Peele's Ambitious Sci-Fi Western With Daniel Kaluuya & Keke Palmer

Daniel Kaluuya on a horse in front of a house and Keke Palmer
Universal Pictures

Nope, don't you go there, that thing is perhaps not of planet Earth. Either way, writer-director Jordan Peele will bring the phenomenon right in front of you with his new sci-fi western in which unbelievable things happen in rural California for our characters' wonderment. Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer star as OJ and Emerald Haywood, respectively, two siblings who run a ranch and horse wrangler business for Hollywood productions after their father dies in what is assumed to be a freak accident. Their ranch and nearby theme park run by former child actor Ricky ''Jupe'' Park (Steven Yeun) become a site for unexplained forces and a hostile UFO sighting. OJ and Emerald set out to film evidence of the flying saucer for financial gain, acquiring help from retail employee Angel (Brandon Perea) and renowned cinematographer Antlers (Michael Wincott).

Peele's writing here is more in line with his work on previous film 'Us' rather than 'Get Out', as his screenplay uses a lot of individual moments as building blocks, like Jupe's memory of a murderous chimpanzee on a set in his childhood, OJ's memory of the freak accident or Emerald's eccentric introduction which separates her from stoic OJ. Nope is a film about spectacles and fascination surrounding them so it's slightly baffling that few of those threads—namely everything to with Jupe— don't end up contributing too much to what eventually is the finale which then sacrifices character moments of OJ and Emerald who are in middle of this specific spectacle. Corresponding visual imagery can also be a sensory overload because of that since it becomes a bit of a chore when you're trying to make sense of it all.

Some of the ideas that are less intrusive do actually pay off big time in multiple avenues, like the hunger to capture something everlasting which Palmer uses impressively to inspire her performance in which she nails every comedic moment and movement, oozing charisma for days. After the uneven first half and notably in rocking last 30 minutes, Peele and his filmmaking team also deliver on that promise of a spectacle and good time at the movies, Hoyte van Hoytema's sweeping camera pulling off intense moves while the sound design (supervised by Johnnie Burn) creates eerie tones to create peaks and valleys for the saucer and its hunt to be seen in this valley. Even if muddled and sometimes too much for its own good, you go out on such a high that you do appreciate a lot of what has been captured here.

Smileys: Sound design, Keke Palmer, VFX, cinematography

Frowneys: Screenplay

That's why you have the IMAX in climax.


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