Life & Culture

Nope film review: Dark UFO comedy struggles to lift off

Writer-director Jordan Peele returns with a Spielbergian sci-fi thriller with an M Night Shyamalan-esque twist


Cert 15 | ★★★✩✩

After the era-defining post race horror comedy Get Out (2017) and the seminal psychological horror Us (2019), writer-director Jordan Peele returns with a Spielbergian UFO sci-fi thriller with an M Night Shyamalan-esque twist.

Starring Oscar-winning British actor Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer (Hustlers, Lightyear) and Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead, Burning, Minari), Nope was produced under Peele’s own Monkeypaw Productions banner. It follows two ranch-owning siblings who attempt to capture evidence of a UFO.

After the death of their father under rather strange circumstances, siblings OJ (Kaluuya) and Emerald (Palmer) Haywood struggle to keep their Hollywood horse handling business afloat.

Forced to sell some of the horses to a neighbouring western-themed attraction owned by former child actor Ricky Park (Yeun), taciturn OJ is also convinced that something very strange and otherworldly is stalking the family ranch.

Things get further complicated when the siblings hire tech savvy handyman Angel (Brandon Perea) to help install some cameras around the property in the hope of capturing what they believe to be a UFO.

As the trio get to work, they are faced with a series of setbacks and the risk of falling victim to the same phenomenon that killed their father and which resulted in the disappearance of countless others.

Charged with subtext, allegory and symbolisms about race and exploitation, at times one feels as though Peele’s film is trying to do too many things all at once yet barely succeeding at making the points it seeks to make.

While the brilliant dark comedy and quick-witted repartee we saw in his first two films are still present, the filmmaker’s ideas are just too flimsily reconstructed and shoddily executed to make any kind of sense.

Nope often feels like the movie equivalent of throwing things at a wall in the hope that some of them might stick. In the end all we are left with is a series of half-baked ideas and a central premise which feels too outlandish to fully function.

Still, Kaluuya is as excellent as ever here. He delivers a strong and commendably understated turn as the timid, yet resilient OJ. And Palmer and Yeun put in two very capable performances, while Perea is a real revelation here, providing both comic relief and charm in a scene-stealing performance as the chaotic, but very likeable Angel.

Though it is entertaining, Nope is sadly Peele’s weakest film yet. But if one is willing to overlook its aimlessness and poorly thought out ideas, there is still a lot to enjoy. Maybe the problem is that his first two films set such high standards — if so, that’s a nice problem to have.

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