Jordan Peele Confuses and Thrills in Sci-Fi Horror, “No”

From left to right, Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer and Brandon Perea in “No”. Credit: Universal Pictures via TNS

Jordan Peele, former star of Comedy Central’s “Key and Peele” turned horror director of “Get Out” and “Us,” had high standards to uphold with his third feature film. Receiving his biggest budget yet of $68 million, Peele was forced to entice audiences with nothing less than a shocking and original show to exceed expectations.

Set in present-day Southern California, “Nope” follows brothers OJ and Emerald Haywood working as horse trainers for cheap Hollywood executives. After the death of their father and a disaster on a commercial set, the siblings return to their remote ranch, unsure of their future. That night at their ranch, the two discover something mysterious hidden in the clouds, which appears to be a UFO.

The emotional weight of the film rests on the performances of Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer. Together the two make a sharp contrast as siblings – OJ is quiet, stoic and cowboy-like while Emerald is talkative, rambunctious and unafraid to speak her mind. With the help of their friends, the two attempt to capture their strange discovery on camera with their “Oprah photo,” photographic evidence of their discovery and, more importantly, their ticket to fame.

The stylistic choices exhibited in “Nope” are distinctly original and reflect Peele’s growing confidence as an author. With the help of cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema, Peele shot some of the most remarkably clear night scenes due to his decision to shoot with Kodak film made specifically for IMAX. Combined with the bizarre and sometimes disturbing moments of the narrative, some of the imagery created by Peele will stick in the viewer’s mind long after the credits roll.

The sound design of “Nope” is equally impressive. A particularly eerie scene featuring Corey Hart’s ’80s classic “Sunglasses At Night.” The song is so heavily distorted and covered in reverb that, combined with the events unfolding onscreen, creates a chilling scene that proves “Nope” demands to be seen in theaters.

As “Nope” flexes its stylistic muscles and anchors its feet in the brother-sister dynamic, it also reaches into the stratosphere with social commentary. The film explores how the most gruesome and depraved tragedies inevitably become fuel for entertainment.

Peele proved to be an avid social observer, and his stories seem to be molded around his observations. His talent for capturing the spirit of the times makes his films more than entertaining, yet culturally relevant. That said, “No” is still far from perfect.

While “Nope” is full of nuanced commentary and demonstrates supreme confidence in its form, unlike previous Peele films, it lacks fully realized characters. Neither sibling experiences noticeable growth as they fail to maintain the adequate depth necessary for real emotional risk from the viewer.

Instead, the characters in “Nope” seem to function as archetypes; they are chess pieces for Peele to manipulate and serve as the building blocks of his great ambition. These kinds of characters shorten the runtime of the film but also reduce its emotional depth. The result is a film that offers its share of shock, thrill, and commentary, but ultimately stumbles across the finish line in search of meaningful resolution.

Despite the character development issues, “No” still has something for everyone. Whether it’s a casual moviegoer looking for a good freak or a hardcore moviegoer craving a bold creative direction, “Nope” offers an enjoyable experience for everyone.

“No”, even with a few flaws, is thrilling and worth watching.

Rating: 4/5

Comments are closed.