4 out of 5
When Jordan Peele was about to release Get Out to the world in 2017, there was a ton of people who thought it was going to be absolutely awful, including myself. This was mainly because at the time, Peele was exclusively known for starring in and being involved with comedic projects. So, naturally, many folks thought the idea of a comedian trying to make a super-serious and gloomy horror film would end up being unintentionally hilarious.
Boy were we wrong.
Get Out is one of the best horror films, possibly ever. It’s a legitimately terrifying film that follows a black man who goes over to meet his white girlfriend’s parents for the first time, which doesn’t exactly go as planned. The film would ultimately be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, and Peele won the award for Best Original Screenplay. Two years later, he would release Us, which was equally terrifying, following a normal couple who start to suspect that they have menacing doppelgangers stalking them.
This is why the hype for Peele’s third film, Nope, was so unbelievably high for myself and millions of others when the film was announced back in July of 2021. What in the world could Peele possibly have in store for us now that we’re not expecting? Well, folks, he has done it again. Not only is this potentially my favourite horror film of the year, it’s easily Peele’s best work yet and is a true masterpiece in every sense of the word. It’ll leave you breathless, terrified, and begging for more at the same time.
Nope is a highly ambitious film and one that isn’t afraid to take some huge swings. The film even opens up a Bible verse from the book of Nahum: “I will cast abominable filth at you, make you vile, and make you a spectacle,” which is then followed by an absolutely jaw-droppingly scary scene that left my packed theatre in shocked silence. Just two or three minutes into the movie, and Peele has already shown that he knows exactly how to craft a terrifying picture. After all, he has had quite a bit of experience now.
This experience shines through in every single frame of the film. This is not the same Peele that made Get Out and Us. No, this is a far more experienced and ambitious Peele that wants to try different things. Nope is a film that isn’t afraid to get legitimately strange and a bit uncomfortable at times, and it also knows how to craft suspense that will keep you guessing around every corner. There are plenty of shots in this film in which our lead character, OJ Haywood, thinks he sees something floating around in the sky, but he’s not sure what it is.
Peele films these scenes in a way that not only leaves OJ guessing, but us viewers, too. Never have clouds looked and felt so terrifying in a movie before. The entire film is intense, but the best sequences in Nope are oftentimes the ones that occur at night. It’s when things start to get absolutely riveting. There is one scene in the second act of the film that honestly freaked me out, which almost never happens in horror films.
All of these horrifying scenes are boosted in quality thanks to Hoyte van Hoytema, who serves as the film’s director of photography. He previously worked on films such as Tenet, Dunkirk, and Interstellar, so it’s obvious that he knows what he’s doing. Peele really needs to continue working with Hoytema on all of his future projects because Nope is not only his best-looking film to date by far, but it’s also probably the second best-looking film of the year, right next to The Batman.
Michael Abels – who composed the music for Us – returns to compose the music for Nope, and he does not disappoint. There are plenty of subtle audio cues that slowly start to rise in sound and spectacle. Seriously, if you don’t end up seeing Nope on the biggest screen possible with the loudest audio you can find, you aren’t watching it the right way.
All of the performances here are good. Daniel Kaluuya stars as OJ Haywood here, having previously worked with Peele on Get Out, in which he portrayed Chris Washington. Kaluuya is easily one of the best and most underrated actors working today, and his performance here may just be his best to date. He has a ton of great moments in the film where he doesn’t even talk. His character says a look with his facial expressions alone, and it’s made impressive thanks to Kaluuya.
Keke Palmer is a scene-stealer here as Emerald Haywood, providing most of the film’s comedic relief. She is definitely an optimistic character that always tries to see the best in things, but it starts to get comedic when she realizes that maybe there is nothing to be joyous about. Palmer and Kaluuya are surely going to be in talk during awards season. Steven Yeun is also fantastic as Ricky “Jupe” Park, who has easily the best backstory in the entire film. Once you see the origin of his character, you will be utterly shocked.
Nope is an awe-inspiring, suspenseful, and oftentimes legitimately terrifying horror masterpiece and if I had one niggle it's that I felt the film was a little too long. It felt like an extended episode of The Twilight Zone, which Peele has resurrected.