The marketing for Jordan Peele’s Nope has wisely played its cards close to the vest. The trailers, posters, and the like clearly hinted at some extraterrestrial-related shenanigans but gave very little away beyond the bare-bones setup. While still clearly a Joran Peele flick, as it plays with noteworthy themes in big, existential ways, this sci-fi tale is shockingly humorous, in a way Get Out and Us were not. Can the writer-director balance the drama, comedy, and action without bogging down his message?
Otis “OJ” Haywood Jr. (Daniel Kaluuya) has recently taken over the family business, horse handling for the entertainment industry, as his father (a terrific cameo from Keith David) passed away six months ago. But, even when Otis Sr. was alive, Haywood’s Hollywood Horses was hitting hard times, and given that OJ isn’t much of a people person, things only look bleaker. So, he makes a deal with reality star turned theme park owner Ricky (Steven Yeun), who buys the horses for a fair price.
OJ’s sister, Em (Keke Palmer), moved to the city a while ago and has come back to pick up a few things. There’s a bit of tension between the two, as Em seems allergic to work but is entirely personable, whereas OJ does nothing but work and hates talking to most other people. But the two find common ground after the electricity goes out throughout the ranch, and they both see something that can only be described as a UFO (or a UAP, if you prefer). Now, they are determined to capture the saucer on camera and get “the Oprah shot” to prove aliens are real.
“…the electricity goes out throughout the ranch, and they both see something that can only be described as a UFO.”
That plot synopsis barely scratches the surface of all Nope is doing. Without a doubt, this is Peele’s most ambitious feature yet, which says quite a lot about it and him right there. Here, the filmmaker is looking at how people exploit each other, their lives, and animals for the sake of a buck and entertainment. How this idea ultimately ties back into the aliens is unpredictable, highly original, engaging, and leaves a few questions.
To be as vague as possible (again, no spoilers!) OJ is great with animals, is tranquil around them, knows how to keep them calm, but has little patience for humans. It is he who figures out some key things about the aliens, but OJ is a horse trainer, perpetuating the cycle of exploitation being laid bare throughout the film. Is he meant to represent a middle ground where one can live peacefully with nature while still utilizing its resources to their advantage? Or is Peele commenting on the hypocrisy present in such a scenario, even when the trainer/handler in question is loving, caring, and respectful to the animals?
It remains unclear, at least upon first viewing. As with the director’s other two titles, there are several layers to unpack that will definitely take multiple watches to unravel through. As such, maybe the answers will come once viewers get the chance to take Nope in a few times. But, who knows, maybe Peele’s ambitions got the best of him here, and this is just a plot hole?
"…clearly a Joran Peele flick...shockingly humorous..."