Nope (Jordan Peele, 2022, US)

One of the most-hyped films of 2022, Nope is the latest directorial effort from director Jordan Peele. Nope marks a notable shift from Peele's last two films - Get Out and Us - in its notable absence of overt social and political themes, as well as its brighter outlook. That's not to say that Nope does not have its fair amount of darkness - the film has something to say about fear of the primal. But the film is the closest Peele has come to making a big summer blockbuster in the vein of Steven Spielberg. Like Spielberg, Peele even centers the film around a family - in this case, the family legacy of Otis Jr. "OJ" Haywood (Daniel Kaluuya) and his sister Emerald "Em" Haywood (Keke Palmer).

In a time when it is exceedingly rare that a genre film not based on a pre-existing IP gets a wide release at all, it is hard to try to find fault with Nope. The positives: the film is exceptionally visually ambitious. Peele's cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema takes center stage here, rendering the film's rural California setting in great beauty, but also with a sense of deep menace. The visualization of the alien is worth the price of admission alone, as is much of the film's nighttime photography.

The film suffers somewhat from an overlong second act but comes back strong in the final act. While some narrative threads feel somewhat under-developed - for example, the competition between the Haywoods and Ricky "Jupe" Park's (Steven Yeun) over first financializing the alien - the film is narratively complex enough to yield repeat viewings. While it may not be the most clever or innovative of Peele's films, it is clear that there is more going on in the film than meets the eye, and it is worth revisiting.



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