Jordan Peele’s Bewildering Signs Knockoff
Horse trainer siblings (Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer) attempt to document a mysterious object above their farm in Nope.
Jordan Peele leads audiences into utter bewilderment with the disjointed and nonsensical Nope. His latest horror-thriller has several jump-out-of-your-seat moments before devolving into a WTF finale. The writer, director, and producer hits like a freight train in a twisted first act of bizarre and horrific imagery. You’re hooked until the actual plot comes into focus. Then realize that many of the disturbing details introduced have little to do with a somewhat obvious reveal. Goofy characters spouting outlandish dialogue and dark humor gets old quickly. I walked out of the theater thinking the film was a weak knockoff of M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs.
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Nope plays out in a segmented narrative. We meet Otis Haywood Sr. (Keith David) and his son, OJ Haywood (Daniel Kaluuya), after a seemingly random and shocking open. They own a horse farm that provides animals for Hollywood productions. Keke Palmer co-stars as Emerald Haywood, OJ’s scatterbrained sister that takes little interest in the hard work of training horses. A strange event has OJ and Emerald taking the reins of the family business.
The Haywood’s farm sits adjacent to a Wild West theme park called Jupiter’s Claim. The owner and star showman, Ricky “Jupe” Park (Steven Yeun) was a child actor on an infamous television show. OJ sells horses to Ricky who’s also interested in buying the Haywood’s land. OJ becomes upset when the chatterbox Emerald gets involved in their negotiations.
Peculiar events plague the farm. Electrical devices lose power and horses behave erratically. OJ witnesses something extraordinary in the sky chasing after a spooked horse. Emerald believes there’s big money in securing an image of the mysterious object. The Haywood’s decide to hire Angel Torres (Brandon Perea), a conspiracy buff technician at the local electronics store, to help them wire the farm with cameras. Their efforts to document the unknown have a terrifying outcome.
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Nope Goes South in the Second Act
Nope’s sci-fi and horror mash-up starts off promising. Peele tantalizes with weirdness. You don’t have a clue what’s actually happening. Oddities abound as the Haywoods and Angel investigate various incidents. Nope goes south in the second act when the danger exponentially increases. The characters recognize a dire threat but continue to behave foolishly. This turn marks escalating flaws in the film. Logic, self-preservation, and dubious intent become blurred together in a ludicrous scheme.
Nope builds to a disappointing climax. Peele aims for an epic showdown with all hands on deck. He uses wide-angle shots to capture the action on a sweeping scale. The frenzied back and forth doesn’t have the expected impact. The CGI visual effects meld poorly with the practical stunts. The computerized elements of the scene sabotage the threat. Something that’s supposed to be big, bad, and scary doesn’t look real. The action also drags on for too long. What was supposed to be ambitious and engaging quickly runs out of steam.
Nope suffers from the same problem that bedeviled US, Peele’s previous film. He has a good idea but can’t weave the details into a cohesive storyline. There are plot holes galore. Peele tosses in crazy bits for pure shock value. You are meant to accept what you see without rational thought. It doesn’t work, especially when a major subplot involving two primary characters has no actual relevance to the resolve. Nope has moments of tension and dark humor but fails overall. Adjust your expectations.
Nope is produced by Monkeypaw Productions. It will have a theatrical release on July 22nd from Universal Pictures.