declanm971’s review published on Letterboxd:
Nope is the most ambitious film so far by Jordan Peele and although it doesn't reach the heights of Get Out its still entertaining cinema.
The most obvious thing to say about Jordan Peele's latest offering is that it's a tale of two halves. The first half is a wonderfully biting satire on the dangers of exploitation, greed and humanity's obsession with spectacle. The mystery is well set up and the narrative twists are horrifying and clever with Peele brilliantly subverting our expectations and taking us down an unexpectedly grim and simple road.
The second half of the film is not as successful and Peele's reach here exceeds his grasp. Nope moves in this period from being a calculated, shocking horror with some of the most brilliantly terrifying scenes in recent history to being a bizarre tribute to Jaws. I feel like in this segment of the film Peele sort of ran out of points to make and instead just made a tribute to B movies and although this part of the film does entertain it lost a lot of what made it so good in the first half. Suspense is replaced by a fun adventure and the tonal shift doesn't really work. I feel like as a Director Peele doesn't yet have the experience or nous to pull off such an ending and the end of the film becomes a little messy and incomprehensible. However, his ambition is admirable and there is still a lot of enjoyment to be derived from this section if not the satisfaction level of Get Out.
However, on a technical level there is much to like about Nope. The camerawork for the film's big scenes is ingenious. Peele shows us just enough to horrify us but obscures crucial details so we are left to imagine the horror of what might actually be happening. The set design for the two key outbursts of violence is incredible. The abduction scene in particular is probably the most claustrophobic, intense and downright disorientating single sequence featured in a film for a long time and it's testament to the set designers and camera crew that this effect is achieved. The sound design as well is a key part of why Nope works. A lot of the sounds are deliberately misleading and really help the film to give us a feeling of genuine terror as our mind fills in the blanks of the gruesome events that can't possibly be shown. Michael Abels once again provides a fantastically threatening score and its easy to see why Peele continues to use him. Hoyte Van Hoytema as well has to receive particular credit for his astonishing cinematography with the night sequences an example of why he is one of Hollywood's best cinematographers.
The casting for Nope really elevates it to a great level. All are uniformly excellent. Daniel Kaluuya gives a wonderfully restrained leading performance and his chemistry with the expressive and scenery chewing Keke Palmer is very enjoyable to watch. Brandon Perea gives a charming breakthrough performance as well. The best performance for me though came from the criminally underused Steven Yeun. He gives a masterclass of understatement. His obsessive monologue about "the Gordy incident" is a terrifically break expression of how people struggle to cope with trauma. Even Yeun's facial expressions make the character fascinating. Right up until his final scene his intentions are left ambiguous. We are left to draw our own conclusions as to his motivation and with a lesser actor I don't think we would have this doubt and I loved this about his performance. To see an actor add nuances like this to a character is a joy to behold.
To conclude, Nope gets bogged down by its own ambition and in itself becomes a spectacle but overall it is a well acted, beautifully crafted, visceral picture which lingers long in the memory.