Jesse Snoddon’s review published on Letterboxd:
"Anything with spirit can get broke."
Where Peele's Get Out asked us to look within, and Us was a refracted look at what lurks beneath, his third outing, Nope dares us to look upwards, to the skies. Following the strange death of the family patriarch Otis Haywood Sr (Keith David), OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald (Keke Palmer) struggle to keep the family business of training horses for movies and television alive. When confronted with an unexplained phenomenon the two decide to treat it as an opportunity to cash in. They quickly learn the perils of messing around with things beyond human understanding in the name of ambition and find themselves in the middle of something they may not be able to control. But that certainly doesn't mean they aren't going to try.
Peele's unorthodox way of storytelling while still adhering to the rules of the game is truly something special. He's fearless in the way he explores familiar territory from fresh and interesting angles. Nope is no exception. It manages to subvert expectations in some unexpected ways. There's no ambiguity about what is going on. What would be the big reveal in most films is made explicit early on and Peele uses it as a backdrop to explore a multitude of themes with varying depths.
Kaluuya's performance is, as usual, exceptional. It's the type of role that I tend to find exciting and calls for a lot of range in a particular, subtle way. When we meet him he seems shy and reserved, barely able to get a sentence out when in a room with show business types. The polar opposite of the outwardly confident Emerald, who has no problem being the centre of attention and in controlling a room. But as things go on and he begins to understand the situation, he generates confidence from a surprising source. The fact that his spirit was broken teaches him the lesson that anything else that has one can have that happen to them too - and he can do it. It gives him the strength he needs to start fighting back. Aside from Kaluuya the rest of the cast shines as well. Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun, Michael Wincott and Brandon Perea are all doing great work and have great screen presence and chemistry with one another.
Among other things Nope is a cautionary tale against playing with fire to make money, and by extension a jab at the type of capitalism that encourages seeking fortune through fame. But more importantly it's just a fun, exceptionally well crafted ride with all the inventiveness of Peele's first two films. He's three for three for me and I'm excited for whatever he does next. I've kept things deliberately vague, as this is likely best to see knowing as little as possible, and so I'll leave things at that. Oh, and bonus points anytime a movie uses the song Strange Animal by Gowan.
[Final thought - Cool poster for a couple Sidney Poitier movies in the background!]