The Movie Waffler New to Netflix - NOPE | The Movie Waffler

New to Netflix - NOPE

New to Netflix - NOPE
A horse wrangler discovers a UFO in the vicinity of his ranch.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Jordan Peele

Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun, Michael Wincott, Brandon Perea

nope poster

I'm one of those oddballs who still listens to CDs. I could play my CDs through my modern blu-ray player, but that device doesn't have any audio outputs that would allow me to hook it up directly to my amp. This means I would need to have my TV turned on to listen to music, an intrusive distraction I don't care for. So, to play my CDs I use a 20-year-old DVD player, which has audio outputs and also boasts an LCD display, something the streamlined blu-ray player doesn't. Sometimes modern tech just can't do what you need and you have to resort to a relic from a previous generation.

nope review

Like Top Gun: Maverick, Jordan Peele's Nope is a movie about the need to keep old tech alive because some day it's going to get you out of a jam when modern tech fails. In Maverick, Tom Cruise's titular pilot flies a series of increasingly older planes over the course of the movie. In Nope, the heroes employ a series of increasingly older cameras in an attempt to capture an image of the UFO that seems to be hanging around their neck of the California desert.

Taciturn horse wrangler OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) and his motormouth sister Em (Keke Palmer) boast a connection to the earliest days of moving pictures, claiming to be descendants of the jockey photographed in Eadweard Muybridge's 1878 experiment 'The Horse in Motion'. Muybridge took six photos of a galloping horse and assembled them into a "motion picture" to satisfy the curiosity of a horse breeder who wished to know if a horse ever had all four hooves off the ground while running. You might say cinema came about through man's curiosity with capturing images of animals, something Nope explores through OJ and Em's quest to photograph alien life and save their failing ranch.

nope review

OJ becomes aware of the presence of the UFO when his father (Keith David) is killed by a coin that falls from the sky like the Coke can in The Gods Must be Crazy and goes right through his eye socket into his brain. A flying saucer seems to appear at night above the ranch, seeking out any vulnerable livestock it can suck up in the manner of the tripods from War of the Worlds (Spielberg's version is explicitly referenced at one point). Hoping to capture the craft on film, OJ and Em purchase state of the art CCTV equipment and find themselves saddled with tech nerd and UFO enthusiast Angel (Brandon Perea), who knows how to use the equipment. But like I said, modern tech just doesn't cut it sometimes and so they find themselves reaching out to gruff cinematographer Antlers Holst (Michael Wincott) and his hand-cranked vintage cameras. If Angel is the film's Matt Hooper, Holst is most definitely its Quint.

Peppered throughout Nope's narrative is a subplot concerning OJ's neighbour, Jupe (Steven Yeun), a former child star who survived an infamous incident on a '90s sitcom set where the chimpanzee star ran amok and chewed the faces off its human co-stars. This is rendered in flashbacks that resemble the massacre in Michael Haneke's Funny Games. It seems like an irrelevant detail until, in the manner of M. Night Shyamalan, it ties into a key moment later on. However, I'm not sure what we're supposed to make of Jupe, who feels like he's missing some crucial character details. I guess, given what we learn about him halfway through the film, we're supposed to view him as a shitheel, the Mayor Larry Vaughn of the Jaws analogy. But Yeun doesn't really play him this way. He's charismatic, but not in the oily manner of the creep he famously essayed in Lee Chang-dong's Burning. Similarly, the lore of the alien is never nailed down. We're told it reacts to one thing in particular, but it contradicts this at one key point. The movie's Spielbergian set-pieces are so thrillingly mounted that it's easy to overlook such details and simply revel in an old-fashioned piece of sci-fi spectacle.

nope review

It's hard not to come away from Nope surmising there's a director's cut that might make things clearer. Based on footage from a trailer that doesn't appear in the actual film, there appears to be a subplot about Em's struggles to make it as a YouTuber. Late on, a character appears out of nowhere that Em seems to view as an antagonist, a sort of rival YouTuber, but we're left scratching our heads as to who this person is. If this footage is added at some point, I suspect it will add greatly to the dynamic between OJ and Em. OJ is quiet and is constantly looking and observing, and Kaluuya has two of the most expressive eyes in modern movies, making him perfect for the role. Conversely, Em is so hyperactive and self-centred that she misses details. OJ is the one more naturally suited to filmmaking, but ironically it's Em who wants to make a living capturing images. In a key moment, OJ gestures to his eyes with his fingers, and then to those of his sister. He's telling her that for once in her life she needs to be quiet and look at what's going on around her, to take in the details. It feels like Peele directly addressing his audience, telling them to shut the fuck up and watch his movie. Em is the sort of person who comes away from the movies Peele makes claiming it didn't make sense because they weren't paying attention, too busy yapping away or scrolling through their phone. Her brother is the type of person who has to explain the relevance of every detail they missed. The general online reaction to Nope suggests there are an awful lot of Ems in the audience. If you watch Nope with an Em mentality you'll likely come away scratching your head, but if you're an OJ you'll be satisfied by what you see but frustrated by what appears to have been left out.

 is on Netflix UK/ROI now.