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‘Nope’ review

Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer & Steven Yeun take on Jordan Peele’s latest big screen effort.

Nope
Credit: Universal

Jordan Peele took the world by storm with his 2017 effort ‘Get Out’ – a film that gave mainstream horror some awards-season credibility whilst also delivering a brilliant, crowd-pleasing, and popcorn-munching blockbuster. His next effort ‘Us’ was a mixed bag – a film of undeniable style and vision, but one that got increasingly frustrating the more you delved in. Spearheading the latest incarnation of the ever-popular anthology series ‘The Twilight Zone’ seemed like a match made in heaven. But with very poor, directionless episodes it failed to ignite with audiences around the world. Which now brings us to ‘Nope’, a beautifully shot but very frustrating horror that once again leaves you feeling unsatisfied at the end.

There is no doubt that Jordan Peele is a talented filmmaker that has a keen eye for a shot, and that he demands much more from his scripts than just loud-bang scares and surface characterisation. He cares about his plot, but at times he gets too convoluted in his own world. The end result is what’s becoming a trait of his now – an underwhelming finale to a lot of potentially great ideas.

‘Nope’ has a very interesting premise, but I can’t go into too much detail in this review because it will spoil the surprise factor. His common themes of racial and social injustice are handled expertly-well here (as they were in both ‘Get Out’ and ‘Us’). And like his most recent output, ‘Nope’ does require the audience to go in cold to get the most fun out of it. Granted, in this day and age that’s an almost impossible task given that everything is spoilt in trailers and clips long before the film itself lands in cinemas. But not reading too much about ‘Nope’ will certainly help with the film’s best moments, including a truly brilliant scare that gained a big reaction in the theatre when I saw it.

Perhaps that scene was too good – because nothing else in the film came close to delivering that fun and excitement during its overlong 2hrs 10min runtime. The film revolves around a horse trainer named OJ Haywood (Daniel Kaluuya), and his sister Emerald (Keke Palmer), who run their generational family business after their father Otis senior (screen legend Keith David) dies in suspicious circumstances. They provide horses for use in the entertainment industry, and the business is falling on hard times. Their ranch in rural California starts to experience some strange occurrences, and the clouds seem to be concealing something nefarious in the distance. What is hiding in plain sight and what does it want?

The cast are all excellent as you’d expect. Daniel Kaluuya is perhaps the best young British actor to cross the shores in years. He is undeniably magnetic onscreen and leads the film exceptionally well. Keke Palmer’s character is annoying at times, but credit to Palmer’s ability to keep the audience still rooting for her regardless. Keith David is always reliable, even though his pivotal role is a small one.

It’s nice to see ‘The Crow’ and ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’ legend Michael Wincott back in mainstream cinema again (even though his character’s story is woefully handled towards the end). But it’s Steven Yeun’s character that leaves the most lingering mark. He plays a former child star named Ricky ‘Jupe’ Park, who now owns a low-key tourist attraction in the area. He lived through a past trauma that has somehow given him an ‘insight’ into the strange happenings experienced in the area. His story is the most interesting part of ‘Nope’ that deserved much more exploration.

Despite looking great (with some truly brilliant CGI used to good effect), ‘Nope’ had so much potential, but once again one of Peele’s projects gets lost within itself. I feel that he is going the way of John Carpenter and M. Night Shyamalan if he’s not careful, where the name conjures up a certain expectation that isn’t necessarily a good thing. The film frustrates more than it entertains at the end of the day, and that’s a real shame. I had a lot of hope going into ‘Nope’ but sadly it’s just another promising endeavour that gets turned in on itself. A real shame.

Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Brandon Perea, Michael Wincott, Steven Yeun, Wrenn Schmidt, Keith David, Devon Graye, Terry Notary, Barbie Ferreira, Donna Mills Director: Jordan Peele Writer: Jordan Peele Certificate: 15 Duration: 130 mins Released by: Universal Release date: 12th August 2022

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