This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Josh Lewis’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Peele once again delivers on another playful high-concept genre exercise as a historical/political/emotional metaphor (where the symbols we create and look at come to life in monstrous ways) but this time in a blockbuster-scaled piece of biblical film dork catnip. Just a non-stop barrage of incredibly self-reflexive imagery with regard to analog vs. digital, artist vs. spectator, primal vs. technical; the production history of uncredited crew and animal abuse (horses were probably the #1 casualty of this industry in its first few decades), Hollywood mythmaking at the intersection of science-fiction, horror, and western iconography and of course the original black cowboys at the origins of cinema. (Great Buck and the Preacher shoutout.) But more impressive than the intellectual ambition of Peele's ideas is his increasing skill to naturally and rhythmically draw them out as an image-maker.
Taking notes from some of our foremost formal genius’ of screen space, economical camera movement, and unbearably patient suspense (lots of talk of Spielberg’s Close Encounters/Jaws for obvious reasons but I was also reminded of War of the Worlds—right down to Kaluuya doing the Cruise run—and Shyamalan’s Signs) and weaving these complex strands of thought on show-business into a cathartic pop thriller that is the right amount of elegant, rousing, imaginative and weird. The genuinely vast and beautiful landscape horizon lines of old western ranches vs. the souvenir shop amusement park rendition (including a chintzy spaghetti score that eventually fills out into the real score!), the handheld IMAX low-angle oners that make dramatic and thematic use of how the characters/audience are using their eyes (the alternate title could've been don't look up), and the equally silly and scary design concepts like UFOs sucking up horses, a white farmhouse soaked in blood rain, or an electric reflective motorcycle vs. a bright orange Scorpion King crew hoodie on horseback.
Despite milking this premise for as much implication and mystery as one could there are some truly grotesque images conjured when it explodes (the big digestion sequence chief among them, the screams coming from the heavens!!!), the editing is a precision suspense machine interrupted by key moments of clarifying historical subjectivity and the 65mm photography by Hoyte takes things that should be goofy and renders them completely mesmerizing. The very idea of flying saucer images shouldn't be creepy in 2022 and yet here we are.
Every visual and sonic detail here contributing to this larger tapestry of Hollywood monster movie metafiction that sees Peele going back much further than just Tremors or Spielberg, but the kinds of movies that made Spielberg believe in movie magic himself, westerns and B-scifi and King Kong… There’s a real, palpably felt desire in here to be involved in the awe and wonder of showmanship/spectacle/documentation, but having the burden of knowledge about the tacky monetary industry and history of exploitative, gruesome horror that has made it tick for a century. Ultimately locating the contradictory, liberating, practically cosmic experience that comes with pursuing and reclaiming a piece of that mythic history for yourself. Which I imagine is not too dissimilar from pulling off a skilled, collaborative, and thrilling technical process to feed an ancient, untamable beast. “Sure looks strange to me.” “Time to ride off into the sunset.”
*Fuck it, upgraded to the 5-bagger. Peele’s best film.