I’d say “Yup” to “Nope.”
Jordan Peele is a genius for his ability to push his horror movies to unreachable levels. “Nope,” his successor to “Get Out” and “Us,” is obviously inspired by a number of movies like “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “Jaws,” the Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns, “Twister,” “Birdbox,” “Natural Born Killers,” and even “Pulp Fiction” when it lets us check out some small fast food joints.
Something tells me that Peele will make a disappointment, and believe me, M. Night Shaymalan’s “Old” was something I went to with my heckling buddies, but the way he knows his filmmaking skills, that’s highly unlikely. If he bombs, I’ll put a dress on in one of my future video reviews. But that’s not gonna happen with “Nope,” which I say “yup” to. It’s one that shocks you, then interests you, then shocks you, then tickles you, and finally entertains you. It couldn’t get more ambitious than it already is.
Peele reunites with his “Get Out” hero Daniel Kaluuya, who plays the horse trainer OJ Hayward (short for Otis, Jr., not Orenthal James-rest assured). He’s trying to pick up the pieces after his father (Keith David) mysteriously dies. Both they and OJ’s younger sister Emerald (Keke Palmer) claim to be descendants of the black man who rode a horse in the first moving image (2 seconds), and they own a famous ranch in California.
There’s a reason why the teaser poster has a floating cloud that looks like it are a kite. There’s a UFO hidden inside, and it begins picking up people and things in the desert. Both OJ and Emerald buy a home security system from a conspiracy theorist named Angel Torres (Brandon Perea) and enlist the help of a filmmaker named Antlers (Michael Wincott) to capture shots of this UFO.
There’s a trick to surviving it, and the trailer spoiled it for us. Don’t look at it when it comes close to you, and you’ll be fine. This probably would be the better movie with the title “Don’t Look Up,” except “Nope” is more effective, especially when OJ says the word when he wants nothing to do with this supernatural activity threatening him. Every time he says it, it’s funny. Not just because of the title, but because of how he uses his tone and attitude without the obligatory movie freak-outs.
There’s also a subplot in which Steven Yeun plays a former child star-turned-novelty ranch owner, who reflects on his childhood when a chimp star (played by Terry Notary) went (dare I say it) ape-sh*t on TV, and practically scared the boy for life. I can’t spoil much, but I tell you: it’s daring and original, and it almost feels like something Mickey and Mallory would enjoy. It even has the mannerisms of an independent feature that resorts to violence and less dialogue. Trust me: I know the difference between how it would be used commercially and independently.
“Nope” keeps up Peele’s ambition and creativity, while borrowing themes and elements from other movies without being so cocky about it. This is the exact opposite of last year’s “Old” in every way possible. There’s a certain kind of complexity within Kaluuya, Palmer, Perea, Yeun, Wincott, and David, and when we see the flying saucer, it’s gets more entertaining the more it appears on screen. It’s one you need to absorb for the way it combines certain genres with certain themes. Some of them regard television programing, and others require survival instincts.
There are two different movies on two different platforms. “Nope,” which I loved, will be in theater, while “The Gray Man,” which I hated, will be on Netflix. If you had to choose between them, I’d say “Nope” to “Gray Man” and “Yup” to “Nope.” It’s one of the year’s best films.