An interesting premise is let down by a drawn-out, unfocused plot and visually disappointing creature reveal.

Written and directed by Jordan Peele (Get Out, Us) Nope follows an estranged brother and sister who attempt to get video evidence of an unidentified flying object after they inherit their father’s ranch. Billed as sci-fi horror, what should have been a basic but solid premise is let down by its drawn-out, unfocused plot and visually disappointing creature reveal at its climax. While it certainly has some interesting and creepy moments, it doesn’t deserve to be called a “horror” film by any stretch. More like a lullaby to help put you to sleep.

Otis Haywood Sr. (Keith David) owns a ranch where he trains horses for film and television productions. One day he’s killed by a nickel that falls from the sky, leaving his ranch to his children OJ Haywood (Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald Haywood (Keke Palmer). Months later – despite OJ’s best efforts to keep his father’s legacy alive – the business finds itself in need of a cash injection. The Haywoods turn to Ricky Park (Steven Yeun), former child-star and owner of a small theme park called Jupiter’s Claim, for a business deal that will help with the ranch’s financial future.

When the two siblings realize that unexplained power outages and spooked horses are being caused by a local UFO that seems to hide in a cloud that does not move, Emerald comes up with a plan to make money by capturing footage of the UFO and selling it. The only problem is they’re hardly experts in setting up camera systems or using non-electronic cameras to capture the impossible shot.

Fortunately they’re able to get help from conspiracy-believing Fry’s Electronics employee Angel Torres (Brandon Perea) and renowned cinematographer Antlers Holst (Michael Wincott) to rig the ranch with cameras and get footage of the UFO. But even with the extra help to get the “impossible shot”, the team may not survive their well laid plan with their skybound adversary becoming more brazen and aggressive with each encounter.

Despite the drawn-out plot and slow “put-you-to-sleep” pacing of the film, there’s at least some decent performances given by the actors – even if their characters’ actions are questionable. Daniel Kaluuya gives a grounded, reserved performance as the son inheriting the responsibility of keeping his father’s ranch – and family reputation – afloat. All he wants is a simple life but with a highly extroverted sister who yearns for Hollywood fame, he never seems to get a regular day where can focus on getting work done around the ranch.

For the most part Kaluuya gives a solid performance as this socially reserved character. However, there are scenes such as when he encounters the UFO in clearly life threatening situations where he should be shitting his pants but doesn’t. After all, he hasn’t been set up as a Rambo-type character. In scenes where he is clearly encountering something extraordinary, we never get what I would consider an appropriate reaction to the extraordinary which dilutes his performance.

Keke Palmer also gives a solid performance as the highly extroverted little sister with dreams of being rich and famous. With a personality completely at odds with her brother, Emerald makes a great yin to OJ’s yang. The polarization of personality types between the two does manage to generate a few genuine comedic moments, a nice break from the staleness the majority of the film wallows in. Palmer brings a lot of energy to the role which is necessary to offset Kaluuya’s grounded performance and a lackluster story that runs for just over two hours.

Jordan Peele has written and directed a horror movie – with a dumb title mind you – that fails to deliver the horror. Sure, there are a couple of creepy moments and there are numerous people and animals that fall victim to the mysterious sky adversary the ranchers face. But for the most part there is no tension. There’s no terrifying spectacle, just an excess of beautifully shot nothing-scenes (this is the first “horror” film to be shot on IMAX, after all) broken up by flashbacks of an actor chimp killing its co-stars on an infamous family show from the 1990s.

Even the deaths of the people at the hands of the UFO are visually disappointing. They get scooped up in a tornado and disappear into its maw. It’s not scary or unsettling to see.

To make the UFO even less impressive or terrifying is the overabundance of footage we see of the entity. So much so that witnessing the giant shiny flying saucer becomes a bit meh. It doesn’t look scary. It doesn’t make scary noises. It doesn’t actually attack very often and even then its moves are completely telegraphed. Even the further reveal at the climax makes the UFO less of a frightening spectacle. Throw in the method our heroes avoid being scooped up by it and you have an antagonist that’s more wacky than terrifying. Let’s see more footage of the chimp from Gordy’s Home, which was way more interesting (and way more terrifying).

If this is supposed to be “Jaws in the sky” then Peele forgot what helped make that shark so frightening is how little you saw of it. If anything, it made me wonder where this entity buys its curtains (you’ll see what I mean if you watch it).

Nope is another disappointing film from Jordan Peele (I’m still trying to forget Us) that manages to make killer UFOs dull and lame. Less actual horror than a comedic drama with horror bits strewn in, this genre mashup is what we’ve come to expect from Peele at this point. Which is a pity because I think the premise and ideas he’s playing with are solid and could have been made into something pretty interesting. With a story that meanders, characters who aren’t particularly believable, and an ending that’s visually laughable, this is another film by Peele that I’d like to forget.

  • MPAA Rating: R
  • Release Date: July 22, 2022
  • Distributor: Universal Pictures

Originally published on July 28, 2022 at https://www.popzara.com/movies/movie-reviews/nope-2022/