Nope ★★★★½

What separates us from the animals? Well, they might direct shittier motorcycle sequences.

Nope is gorgeous and misshapen and wonky, it's not airtight but it's more fascinating for it. It's like one of those foreign horrors you have to see to believe, or some 1950s William Castle oddity with a bonkers premise.

Somehow, Jordan Peele got Hoyte van Hoytema to eclipse even the images he captured for Christopher Nolan, making an unbroken streak of three cinematographers doing career-to-date work on a Peele joint. Keke Palmer gives the performance of the year through whole-body reacting and being the queen of thousand-yard stares, but Daniel Kaluuya and Michael Wincott aren't far behind. Kaluuya's post-Oscar turn here genuinely feels like an ascendance to transformative A-lister status; so much of it is just Peele vibing on him alone.

Nope is horror, not because it's about the scares, but because Peele allows Wes Craven or Tobe Hooper-like extended disquiet to accompany his most arresting images. Their length gets under your skin more than a jump ever could, and there are some jump scares for good measure anyway. He's an increasingly patient filmmaker, making his first film without a constant riveting hook or clear-cut alpha allegory, but doling out a comparably filling meal.

Peele will never, ever let go of stories about people who use the smokescreen crutch of history to excuse their modern hypocrisy, bigotry, exploitation, and stupidity. He sees and showcases it and we're luckier for it.

But the ways he applies it to both crew jobs and pop culture marginalia of the past, like each of the magnificent Steven Yeun monologues as they inform us of his most Tarantino-like supporting character creation ever, makes this one to remember that may even be more enamoured with ghosts of genre film past than Us.

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