“Nope” is a movie that will take some common science-fiction and horror concepts and stands them on their head. It peels back the layers of complexity into simple and familiar scenes. There are questions that are suggested, and the movie plans to answer only a few of them. The rest of them are puzzles to be worked out and studied, like some jigsaw pieces that have been painted Black.
Hollywood plays a major part of the Heywood Ranch. The Black-owned business claims to be related to the unidentified Black jockey featured in the first ‘movie’. After the unusual event that caused the death of their father, OJ Haywood (played by Daniel Kaluuya) and his sister Emerald (played by Keke Palmer) are at a loss. They have a sprawling ranch, and many horses trained for Hollywood productions. But with their Dad gone, many of those opportunities are dwindling.
OJ recalls the day that his Dad died. There was an unusual formation of clouds and a heavy wind in the scenic valley just north of LA. There was a huge dust storm, and then weird objects fell from the sky. One of those man-made objects killed his Dad. Emerald has moved back to the ranch, but her ambitions are elsewhere. She is lively and full of energy, while OJ is much more laid-back and passive. But in the passing months, there are odd signs that something is afoot.
OJ and Emerald are in a very rural part of the valley. The closest ‘neighbor’ is a small amusement park that is run by a prior child Asian actor named ‘Jupe’ Park (played by Steven Yeun). Jupe had been a popular star in some movies and in a TV sit-com. But there was a tragedy that happened on set which caused the show to be cancelled. Jupe will never confirm it, but this incident had scarred him for life. He runs the small park that calls back to his prior starring roles. Jupe and his family are always looking to expand, and they ask OJ about his property. If OJ and Emerald will sell, he can make his park that much larger.
Yet things are not quite right at the ranch. Some events are spooking the horses at night. OJ and Emerald are wondering about the power outages, and the unusual winds coming down the mountain sides. They decide there just might be something ‘out there’. So they stop at an electronics big box store.
They are there to get high-quality cameras and recording equipment. The bored store clerk Angel (played by Brandon Perea) offers to come to the ranch and get it set up for them. He figures out that they might be searching for a ‘perfect’ shot of a UFO. If that is what is circling around them in the sky…
OJ and Emerald also contact a famous cinematographer named Holst (played by Michael Wincott). His work is world-renowned, and the Emerald convinces him that they have a project that might make him famous beyond this world. At first he scoffs at the idea. But then he comes out to see the ranch.
Angel has been coming by everyday to make sure the camera equipment is working. But when there are mysterious power outages, the digital cameras will not work. Holst has is own home-made hand-cranked camera, so even in an outage, he would be able to still get that ‘perfect’ shot.
Jupe Park runs his little theme park, and he has some ‘special’ attractions for his guests. He has also been aware of some unusual events in the skies. He plans to make it an ongoing feature of his park. He remembers that day he was on the set of the old TV show, where an animal got out of control. He vows to never allow anything like that happen again. But he might not any control over his new friends in the sky. He would like to expand and grow his business. This new ‘attraction’ would be huge.
The ranch is buzzing with activity, and there is now a plan in place to get to the bottom of the mystery. It will involve OJ and Emerald, running the operation to ‘attract’ the mystery object in the sky. Angel will be up on hill with Holst. Angel has all the digital cameras. Holst has his special-made manual camera. They have a dirt road in the valley all lines up with a huge number of ‘tube men’, those big air-filled, floppy-armed brightly-colored ugly balloon men. If anything will get the attention of the eyes in the sky, it will be those dorky ‘tube men’.
But what will finally happen to the folks who want some answers? Would they also be able to cash in on this event? Will they see the mystery object up close and personal? Will all these best-laid plans become unraveled and fall apart like a bale of hay left out in a windstorm? Are they dealing with something that is so huge and unbelievable that they will never be able convince anyone of what they have seen?
“Nope” is a wild mixture of science-fiction and horror idea, with a story that plays out like “Home Alone” meets “Jaws”. The pitch-perfect acting of Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer set up the movie to be (at first) a dysfunctional family comedy. But pretty soon, they are deep into a mystery that they cannot solve. They live out on the ranch, and they can see that the ranch area is turning into Area 51.
Brandon Perea (as Angel) does a really good job in a role that makes him a bit more than just a sidekick. Steven Yeun is a terrific actor, but his role as Jupe seems to be less than critical to the movie. Michael Wincott is also really good as the cameraman ready to give it his all for that ‘perfect shot’.
But what is it all about? Many questions are raised, and the movie is in no rush to give out all the answers. Could there be Aliens from Somewhere Else? Are they ‘Not Of This Planet’ (NOPE), as some people have suggested? What if there is an alternative form of life, but is nothing like anything that human know about? Could it be that an ‘alien spaceship’ is not a ‘ship’ at all? What if the other form of life is an organic, flying, and eating, alien being – and not a machine at all?
Jordan Peele has again come up with a thought-provoking movie that reflects the uncertainties of our present day. Will this movie give you all those answers? Nope!
Written and Directed by: Jordan Peele
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun, Brandon Perea,Michael Wincott
Cinematography: Hoyte van Hoytema
Edited by: Nicholas Monsour
Music by: Michael Abels
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Release date: July 22, 2022
Length: 131 minutes
MPAA rating: R for language throughout and some violence/bloody images
Genre: Mystery, Science Fiction
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