This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
evilbjork’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Nope is one of the best experiences I've had in a theater in recent memory and one of my new favorite sci-fi horrors. Here are some of my loose thoughts on the film.
I love the central family, OJ, Emerald, and Otis the father. The two kids have such fleshed-out personalities, and although the father is barely in the movie you can tell a lot about him. One of my favorite details is how Emerald misses one of the "great"s when talking about her great x3 grandfather. It's later shown that the speech she gives is the same speech that her father would give and the reason for that missed "great" is because she was reciting it word for word. It's a sweet detail that shows how influential the father was to the business as well as how much his kids must have admired and respected him.
The film's main theme is about how the film industry uses and abuses its actors and the people that keep it running. We see how performing animals are pushed to their limits with Gordy the chimp and Lucky the horse at the start of the film. These are animals that are thought of as replaceable objects, exemplified in the opening when Lucky is literally replaced by a greenscreen prop horse. This gets connected to the family by way of their great great (great) grandfather, a jockey who appeared in the very first film and yet is completely unknown by name. It happens again when Otis is killed by falling shrapnel and immediately gets replaced by his son on a film set where he's also treated just as replaceable.
There's a focus on predators and how you can't tame them, but merely make an agreement. Gordy shows that in his explosion of violence, but it's shown even more so in the film's alien. The alien, named Jean Jacket, is routinely talked about in terms of predator-like behavior. It's territorial, stalks prey like a predator, and it really hates eye contact. Eye contact is the main way to get its attention, and avoiding it is the main method to stay alive. This again returns to the theme of Hollywood in how the act of looking is a lot like the act of pointing a film camera.
What makes this movie work so well is how well executed the threat is. I love how there are no small aliens walking around, but the flying saucer itself is the alien. It's so rare to see something unique done with the idea of aliens. The design of it is amazing, both the look and especially when it's in cloud form. The image of a cloud with a string of flags moving around is immediately one of the most iconic horror images I can think of. It's as effective as the shark fin from Jaws. The way it changes form is also really cool. The mystery of its form is scary and adds a whole new level of threat to it. I also like how this might help explain how a flying saucer could get confused with a weather balloon since its second form takes a similar shape.
One of the more perplexing elements of the film is the Gordy plotline. Although Gordy exemplifies the abuse against actors, his relation to Ricky is focused on a lot for something that feels completely irrelevant to the main story. Ricky himself is an interesting character when you consider that he was once a young actor and then over time became the one in control of the actors. Gordy doesn’t attack him during his rampage and that might be because Gordy saw him as an equal. They were essentially both performing monkeys at the time. Although the end of his arch comes when he’s now the exploiter, literally sacrificing horses to entertain his dismal audience.
The ending is another part that had an unexpected execution. It’s quiet and feels kind of depressing. There’s no loud, triumphant music and even Emerald has tears in her eyes as she screams in victory. I think it’s because although they won, and got the footage they wanted, it’s sad because now they have become just like the exploiters. Now they’re in a position of having destroyed a life and taken pictures with intent to profit. It’s one of those unexpectantly emotional endings like the end to The Graduate.
This film has so much to say and explore that it's easy to forget to talk about how fun of a film it is. The characters are great, it looks great, and the action involving the alien is magnificent. The shots of the alien gliding along the ground towards OJ are some of the most impressive and jaw-droppingly intense moments I've seen in a film in years. My favorite scene in the movie is easily the rain sequence. That's one of the best scenes from any horror movie of the last 30 years. The sound of the rain, or lack of sound, is so menacing. Also the raining blood is such a classic horror moment and perfectly scratches that horror itch.
It’s an amazingly effective sci-fi film, horror film, and allegorical film about family and Hollywood. This being Jordan Peele’s third film, and third excellent film, really cements him as one of the best modern directors. He’s not a one or two hit wonder and I think we’re in for a long career of great films.