Review: Nope

Score: A-

Director: Jordan Peele

Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun, Brandon Perea

Running Time: 130 Minutes

Rated: R

The word I keep coming back to is "spectacle." It's a word that Ricky (Steven Yeun) promises a small audience just before something horrifying happens. And aside from the long-delayed Top Gun: Maverick, it's been something missing from movies for several years. Nope may be Jordan Peele's least thematically rich movie to date, but he more than makes up for that with awe-inspiring images.

Daniel Kaluuya plays O.J., who struggles to keep the family horse training center afloat after the mysterious death of his father (Keith David). When his prodigal sister Em (Keke Palmer) returns to their remote ranch, they keep seeing unexplainable phenomena. Convinced it's a UFO, they load up on security cameras in hopes of capturing "the Oprah shot" - a video so clear and undeniable it will reverse their fortunes. They reluctantly befriend Angel (Brandon Perea, who I'd never seen in anything before), a tech expert and conspiracy theorist who uses their shooting sessions as an escape from his dead-end job.

Like Jaws - a movie I've already seen this compared to - this group is in over their heads, overmatched by something they don't understand and often underestimate. Like Spielberg's masterpiece, Peele deploys jump scares, punchlines and horrifying monologues with expert timing. It was a great theatrical experience, as the packed theater gave the film their rapt attention, recoiling and laughing at the right moments.

While the film doesn't have as much social satire as Get Out or Us, it features Peele's deepest characters to date. Our trio - plus a cinematographer played by Michael Wincott - can't stop pursuing their obsessions, even when their lives are in danger. And Steven Yeun's Ricky, who has perhaps just 15 minutes of screentime, gives us a fully fleshed-out person. He's a struggling businessman, haunted by a traumatic incident from his childhood. Still, he presents himself as a consummate showman, an Asian-American P.T. Barnum. It's sneakily the best performance in a movie with a lot of them.

Nope is scary, funny, disturbing and sharp. But above all, it's expertly crafted spectacle. In a summer devoid of such incredible sights, look up and you'll see Jordan Peele, high above his peers.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.