Nope ★★★★

Never as cohesive or even as perfect as Get Out was - frankly not even close, nor remotely as provocative, but that's beside the point here. Incredibly clever and somehow Peele's most intellectually and cinematically sophisticated work to date, despite it becoming somewhat incoherent. It's also the most purely enjoyable film he's ever made both despite and because of its big ideas, even if they don't always work.

While at times this can get caught up in inconsequential character dynamics which bog the film down from the sharp masterpiece it could have been, as an aside it does the contemporary (and correct, fundamentally) impulse of having a broadly multi-racial cast better than almost anything else because it never makes a point of it. So we get a nice little portrait of actual modernity for once which works so well precisely because it's aside from the actual purpose of the film itself. The only thing is that the character delineations and motivations don't always gel with the project Peele has delivered despite the overall excellent performances from the aforementioned cast. There are nice threads with Daniel Kaluuya (with a genuinely wonderful understated performance) and Keke Palmer's lower end film crew members but the only person that really gets much meat here is Steven Yeun as an ex-child star with a trajectory (if mostly seen in flashback) that serves as a strong metaphor for Peele's own interests regarding spectacle here, itself shown mostly through metaphor! But despite the amount of strong work done here it can come off a little plodding, which is not the fault of the actors or the writing but a consequence of incorporating this material within such a complex structure when the film may have not really needed it.

If Nope can appear confusing or incoherent at times it's partially because it cushions its critique in appeal to the subconscious rather than a more effective logical analysis. All while couched in metaphor! But when it works, it works, because Peele's target here isn't spectacle bare as a concept (which would be mind numbingly simple) but rather the hegemonic force which spectacle can help facilitate. Its (again) clever, De Palma-ian mis-en-scene focuses on tenets and planks of American cinema spectacle, both then and now: westerns, UFO's, the sitcom, and even the green screen. But instead of linking these things directly, he has us instead meditate on them by being bookended with the aggressive alien sequences. Spielberg has frequently been mentioned as a core influence on this film, not least by Peele himself - and this does share some DNA with the original Jurassic Park - but the one this really is calling back to is War of the Worlds. The most telling sequence in the entire film is upon Kaluuya's return to Jupiter Claim immediately after the UFO devours the audience. The Western space seems bare, apocalyptic, a system which still exists yet exhausted beyond belief, so that there's nobody left. Sure, it's maybe a messy approach, but these are important things to recognize because of the role which aesthetics play in shaping our political realities.

It's exciting to see Peele really assert himself into the front ranks of contemporary American filmmaking. It's flawed, sure. But it only feels flawed because it gets so much right, yet it isn't perfect.

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