There are some trailers that should never have been made and that of Nope! is a prime example. It provides way too much spoiler-type information, shows far too many scenes… that, when you eventually do see the movie you feel like you’re watching it for the second time. From behind a cloud, a UFO threatens a house where two siblings live. Looking upwards at the UFO can get you abducted. But, what’s it doing there in the first place? Feeding on animals and humans. That’s the trailer and that’s the movie. We’ve seen thousands of movies about unidentified flying objects that come to abduct us and by this stage, we know the plot off by heart. But, in the case of director Jordan Peele (Oscar award winner for Best Screenplay, Get Out, and Us), horror fans expected a lot more. There had to be more to it, but sadly, that was all there was.
That said, the editing provides many the redeeming feature at several points which makes watching it on the big screen a genuine cinematic experience, leaving the viewer with scenes that remain engraved on the retina. Like when the ship begins to cast off everything it didn’t eat from the humans, dumping keys, coins, and even a wheelchair onto our protagonists’ house, or the horses galloping across the plains in the middle of nowhere that stays imprinted on your mind. But above all, the scene with the chimpanzee that leaves many cinemagoers flabbergasted, wondering, a priori, what the heck this disturbing primate is doing in the middle of all this, until we find the why. The film features throughout a critique of “spectacularization” and, in particular, the use of animals to make money, their exploitation and subsequent monetization. To make money even from tragedy, and herein lies the added value to Peele’s work. This is what we take away from a production that, apparently, doesn’t bring anything new to the table and although classified as a horror, -sorry, but there’s no way it should be included among the horror genre – because, except for a couple of scares and one or two moments of tension, it is not scary at all. If anything, this is sci-fi.
Our protagonist is a wrangler running a ranch and at a point in his life when he’s hiring out his horses to appear in TV and film productions, introduced to us from the opening scene with a horse standing in front of a green screen. Later we meet a South Korean character (Steven Yeun) who runs a nearby animal theme park. Then comes the unexpected opportunity for both to reap fortune and fame: to get the UFO on camera. The fact that the UFO is devouring folk takes second stage to the need to show the world, pay-per-view that is, that extraterrestrial beings exist, but if you want to see this, you’ll need to exit through the giftshop. Once again the message is that the show is all that more important than the lives.
But let’s talk about the protagonists. It is likely that Peele sought a marked contrast between the two siblings. While Oscar-winning British actor Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah) holds the same expression throughout the film, stolid despite everything that’s going on around him, his sister, American actor and singer Keke Palmer (whom we’ve seen in Scream: The TV Series) is an unflagging source of energy. Palmer’s character is expressive, cheerful and highly-charged galore, complete with exaggerated facial gestures and next to her brother, she almost appears to be taken off the pages of a comedy production. He, on the other hand, doesn’t bat an eye and is in a permanent state of passivity viewers find exhausting. Nothing makes this being who’s tired of life flinch as he seems to just keep putting one foot in front of the other, period. Funny, because in Get Out, a performance that earned him the Oscar nomination and in his Golden Globe winning role in Judas and the Black Messiah, it’s clear he’s got the goods. So, it’s clear the director was looking for this contrast, this clash of personalities.
The fact that the director chose two black actors is not accidental, and represents a point in favor of the film, as we all know how untypical it is to see black cowboys and the film vindicates the role of the black man in a traditionally white-dominated world. And this, as opposed to the concept of UFOs suddenly appearing from out of the blue and beaming folk up, at least is original.