Review: Nope

This article contains spoilers.

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Jordan Peele has returned to our screens with his new horror Nope, only this time sci-fi has become horror’s sidekick to investigate how extra-terrestrial life is more than just green monsters and UFOs. 

The film opens without the presence of its main characters, instead the audience see a blood-covered chimpanzee, who we later learn is called Gordy. As the camera pans out, we see that Gordy has killed all the people around him on a surrounding, unknown film set. In an extremely unmoving fashion, Gordy then stares directly into the camera, making the audience think we are his next prey. We later learn that Gordy is actually staring at his fellow cast-mate Ricky “Jupe Park” (Steven Yeun) who featured on the show, Gordy’s Home, which ended after this horrific incident. 

Following this extremely short opening scene, the main plot begins — albeit somewhat incoherently. Otis Jr “OJ” Haywood (Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald “Em” (Keke Palmer) are dealing with the loss of their father, who died via a coin inexplicably throwing itself down from the sky, hitting him directly in the head on their horse ranch. 

After the tragedy, their business is slowly plummeting. It would seem they want something to happen, but extra-terrestrial activity was not on the list. Nonetheless, as an otherworldly object keeps showing itself on the ranch, the two decide they need an ‘Oprah shot’ — definite proof that this alien-esque object exists.

Sci-fi has become horror’s sidekick

Throughout the film, I struggled to see how these two seemingly separate plots united. That is until we learn that Jupe owns a theme park adjacent to the ranch and is trying to show the extra-terrestrial being in all of its glory, to willing audiences. At this specific showing of the other-worldly being, the creature eats all of its audience, including Jupe himself. This is where the plots unite. 

Thinking back to the first scene when Gordy stares at Jupe, we later learn that even though the chimpanzee had just killed all his castmates, clearly this is not the case for Jupe. In fact, when he sees Jupe he doesn’t attack and instead reaches out his hand to fist bump him, shortly after which, Gordy is shot in Jupe’s face. As a result, Jupe believes he has powers unknown to others, perhaps emphasising sheer egotism or blatant naivety because we brutally learn he is just as helpless as any other human. 

We find out that the non-earthly being, previously thought to be a spaceship but is actually an organism itself, named “Jean Jacket” by OJ only preys on those that physically look at the apocalyptical, enigmatic, biblical-looking presence. Peele claimed that he chose this unusual trope because “When we’re driving, we’re in traffic and there’s an accident, that traffic slows down […] it’s because everybody’s sneaking a peak at that awful spectacle.” This is ultimately the unavoidable nature of humans — to look at the unwatchable, and this is where I wished we could have seen more. 

There were various points in the film where Peele artificially stopped the action to stylistically flash up the name of a character in the film, to restart a new shot from their perspective, though this just left me wanting more in a way that I felt wasn’t satisfied. 

We are left lingering as a form of self-reflection

Maybe this is the point. We are left lingering as a form of self-reflection, to question whether we need to see all the action at once to fully understand the picture. Undeniably, the plot did fully unfold and Em did get the ‘Oprah shot’. In a self-critical way I guess I wanted some superfluous horror. 

The most unmoving, horrific and disturbing shots were taken from an extremely close-up, dark or faraway perspective, meaning I couldn’t submerge myself fully in the screen, I could only watch from an obscured view. This, however, is the point. 

As the audience, we are not meant to have the perfect perspective because once the film is made, we cannot infiltrate the screen. We have already been given a previously unknown ‘awful spectacle’ to watch for over ninety minutes. Does it really matter what perspective we’re seeing it from?

Will Peele’s new horror join my top ten list? Nope. Will I be thinking about it for the next week, frustrated that I couldn’t have seen more of the horror? Absolutely.

Image: Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons

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