We love an Outposter contribution. If you have something to say about movies, streaming, TV or entertainment then shout on [email protected]. One of our Outposters, Wrenage, doesn’t just do Retro Reviews. He does regular reviews too. Like this one, for Nope.
Nope is the latest movie from Jordan Peele. It is a UFO mystery/thriller. That’s as far as I will go with spoilers so read on without fear.
First, the bad.
Nope tries to channel the deliberateness of M. Night Shyamalan, but it doesn’t have interesting characters to hang the story on. All it has to keep audience interest is the mystery, and the mystery is revealed two-thirds of the way through. Nope is another movie that suffers from a bloated runtime. It is 131 minutes, and a decent chunk of that is filler. Ergo, it can be a bit dull.
Elaborating on the characters, the best thing about the brother and sister, played by Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer, is that they give me a chance to use the word milquetoast. Kaluuya looks like he ingested a valium and warm beer before each scene.
Palmer tries to be the bubbly sibling that drives the dynamic, but whatever energy she achieves is ersatz energy. It’s not her fault. She simply doesn’t have much to work with. I imagine her getting directed like this:
“Okay, in this scene, you are going to play a record. Be sassy about it!”
Steven Yuen plays a former child star who now runs a roadside attraction. He at least gets put into a position to be vibrant when he emcees a show for tourists. That’s all he gets, though.
Brandon Perea is a tech salesman who helps Kaluuya and Palmer install video cameras on their property to film the phenomenon they are experiencing. He comes off the best of the bunch, as his character gets to operate from a place where he can react to Kaluuya’s inertness and Palmer’s annoyingness.
Two other actors are worth mentioning. Both are woefully underused. One is Keith David. I would have given him an Oscar nomination for his performance in Something About Mary. His comedic turn in that film charms me to no end. David plays the father of Kaluuya and Palmer.
The other underused actor is gravely-voiced Michael Wincott, who played the villain in The Crow. He plays a cinematographer in Nope (I thought he was maybe trying to throw a touch of Herzog into his character). Both Wincott and David should have been the main characters in Nope. Then you would have had some real charisma carrying the day. Instead, they are consigned to blink-and-miss-it roles that have little effect in the grand scheme of things.
Speaking of cinematography, I was continually struck by how bland Nope looks. They are out in the California desert and mountains and dealing with expansive skies. Yet, Nope looks haphazard in a lot of ways. This had to be a deliberate choice, as the cinematographer was Hoyte van Hoytema, who worked with Christopher Nolan and Sam Mendes, so the guy can compose a shot.
So why make that choice? You got me. Seems like overthinking it.
Finally, let’s talk a bit about the writing. I enjoyed Jordan Peele on MadTV and when he appears in movies, and I like Key and Peele, but Nope does not seem particularly well written. No good jokes appear. The stakes are not that high. The stakes basically boil down to getting a picture. There is some ambition to the film, but it almost feels like Peele had a three-picture contract, and he needed a third film to fulfill it, so he slapped a script together. This one needed more time in the oven.
Onto the good…
Nope has a genuinely interesting concept. It also has a chapter structure that brings intrigue to the mix. Flashbacks to an animal attack on a sitcom also add a bit of obscurity to the proceedings for the viewer to puzzle out. Peele made some effort to put a bit of meat on the bone without getting sidetracked by messages. That is commendable.
Nope has the right idea in its build-up. Mysterious events generate curiosity. When a horror scene finally happens, it is effective and interesting in its execution.
Eventually, everything leads to a final act that is clearly aping Jaws. Nope has some good ideas in this sequence, but they aren’t realized to their maximum potential.
That is Nope in a nutshell. A fun movie exists here, but it is carrying too much dead weight and bogs down under the load. Nope needs to be streamlined and jazzed up. Drop twenty minutes. Maybe lose one of the siblings. Give David and Wincott more attention. Then you got yourself a summer flick.
For what it’s worth, I saw Nope with another person. When I asked for their reaction, this is what they said:
“Terrible movie. One star. I especially hated how bland the UFO effects were at the end.”
I was more kind to the film. I did agree that the effects and UFO design could have used a bit more embellishment at the end of the film, however.
All in all, Nope is probably going to be one of those movies. Some folks are going to hate it. Others are going to kind of like it. The disappointing part in all this is that I believe everything was there to make this a fun movie lots of people could enjoy. But they tried to M. Night Shyamalan it up a bit too much. They should have went a more Spielbergian route.