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Nope (2022)

What is Nope? What we can say for certain is that it’s the latest brainchild from the brilliant and wildly creative mind of Jordan Peele. We know Peele of course from his hilarious and thought-provoking breakout comedy hit TV show Key and Peele alongside his partner in crime Keegan-Michael Key, but also more recently from his solo forays as writer, director, and co-producer of the Oscar-award winning Get Out (2017) and his follow up hit horror movie, Us (2019). Well Peele is back in the driver’s seat again as the writer, director, and producer of Nope. But what is Nope you ask, again? Well, it’s a wild ride of a movie that combines comedy, mystery, action, sci-fi, and of course, a huge dose of horror! When things rain down from the sky and fell the elderly black man, professional Hollywood horse trainer, and father, Otis Haywood Sr. (played by the Hollywood veteran Keith David), Otis Jr. (or O.J. as he is known) played by the Oscar-winner Daniel Kaluuya, is forced to take over the family business. When his younger and clearly less dependable sister Emerald Haywood (played by the talented Keke Palmer) shows her face, we are witness to a loving and yet unbalanced relationship. As O.J. struggles to save the family business by selling off horses to a local western-style theme park operated by Ricky “Jupe” Park (played by Steven Yeun), strange things start to happen which make it clear that whatever killed their father did not necessarily fall from an aeroplane (as the initial explanation went). But what it is, is unclear – weather phenomenon, alien spaceship, or alien being – although its capacity to kill is quickly revealed. Humour is introduced by the interaction of O.J. and Emerald with Angel Torres, a local, lovelorn technician at an electronics store who is soon as obsessed with “the things” in the sky as the Haywoods. In a tip of the cap to a Canadian pop music icon, when Torres’ van loses electricity (due to the unexplained disturbances), it’s Corey Hart’s “Sunglasses at Night” (1984) that is playing on the store van’s radio. A strange subplot looms as we are made privy to Park’s past as a famous child actor who survived an attack by a trained chimp in which his co-stars were killed or maimed, while filming a sitcom. Does the haunting memory of the animal’s wild and bloody attack parallel the indiscriminate killing of the aerial phenomenon? Is the film a condemnation of the lack of safe spaces for black people (home, car, horseback)? Is it meant to dissuade us from prioritizing footage (cinematic or paparazzi) over life and limb? While the meanings of the film are less obvious than they were in Get Out or Us, Nopeis certainly thought-provoking, original, and haunting.