Nope: A Movie Review


Aidan Moll, Guest Writer

Spoiler buffer: For those of you who want as little as possible spoiled about NOPE, here is the long and short of it. NOPE is a fantastic Sci-fi horror movie. It takes ideas that in concept or a trailer wouldn’t be all that scary and makes them intense and horrifying. There will be a lot of loud noises, so be warned. I can absolutely tell you with full confidence that you should see NOPE (so long as you know what you’re getting into, it’s a serious horror movie.) The rest of this review won’t be spoiling anything major from the plot or any serious revelations, but if you want to go in knowing as little as possible, you can click off here.

NOPE is Jordan Peele’s 2022 horror blockbuster, and it is really something. I should say up front, I have not yet had the chance to see Get Out or Us, so I won’t be able to compare the three. The basic gist of the plot is that a Hollywood horse training ranch is being terrorized by something from beyond. The two people running the farm are Keke Palmer and Daniel Kaluuya, who have a very believable sibling relationship. Their energy together of bugging and helping each other makes for very good chemistry, and their scenes always flow well. They are accompanied by Brandon Perea, a tech guy who offers good comic relief every time he’s in a scene. The supporting cast is rounded out by Steven Yeun, acting as a former child star and current western theme park proprietor, Michael Wincott, playing a cameraman with an incredibly strong and well-defined energy that still remains indescribable, and Keith David, who had a very small role, but in true Keith David fashion, shattered expectations. All three characters are excellent, but it would be nice if we got to see more of Yeun and David. It’s not that their roles in the story don’t make sense, it’s just that they’re excellent performers that could do more if given more.

Some horror/thriller movies have been described as “roller coasters,” but never before has it rung so true for me than in NOPE. From the jump, twisted images and audio gore make your stomach churn. You barely manage to shake that feeling and feel a little more comfortable for a scene of dialogue in broad daylight, before something happens to make your heart leap out of your chest again. And it only gets worse from there. NOPE has the stellar pacing of Cedar Point. At the end of the day, Peele, a comedian, is responsible for this. Making you uncomfortable is relatively easy, but with the excellent comic relief, you get the slow rising, the plateau, and the horrifying drops. The noise in the theater gets incredibly loud, the situation itself becomes dire, you wince in anticipation, and then you take a deep breath, because the danger seems to have passed. You get a few more funny dialogue scenes, and you’re right back at dusk. This pacing is what makes NOPE the definition of a blockbuster, and a perfect summer movie.

The plot and content of the film, the meat and potatoes, are more fun to just experience in the theater, but for those who want a more descriptive summary, two siblings notice something strange and seemingly extraterrestrial going on around their ranch and decide that they have to try to capture it on film for money and acclaim. This plot is really a jumping off point for the themes and set pieces of the movie. It’s just as deep as it needs to be, and has enough quiet details to make you think back to mental footnotes from an hour before.

What does NOPE mean? (The movie, not why it’s called that.) Many things. It is one of those great pieces of art that has many possible interpretations. It’s best to go in having dashed any preconceived notions of what the movie will be about thematically. If you expect it to be about one specific thing going in, you will be confused and frustrated by a number of scenes that seem like they’re in the movie for “no reason”. There are definitely strong impressions of themes in the movie, that, a few days after the fact, solidify in your head. The thematic side of the movie runs on fridge logic, because while you’re in the theater, you are preoccupied with the horror of it. Walking out of the theater, I thought the movie was sort of all over the place, which it is, but on the car ride home and in the wee hours of the night, more and more of the pieces started to click together for me: something I didn’t pick up on because I was tensing for a jump scare, or a parallel I hadn’t considered. Now, a couple of days later, I see that it was a very strange but cohesive film.

This is secondary, in my opinion, but NOPE is a beautiful film. The western aesthetic is very strong, and it makes all of the barren desert landscapes seem legitimately striking. The special effects are fantastic as well. The UFO moves at just the right speed to be described as uncanny. The non-UFO effects are all fantastic as well. One scene in particular has an almost self-indulgent classic horror movie effect that looked and sounded great. I was not once taken out of the immersion by a bad special effect, so props for that.

I don’t really believe in number grades for movie reviews, but if I was forced to, I would give it a 9.5/10. Stellar horror, whip-smart writing and inspired performances make NOPE my movie of the summer. If you’re up for a film full of tension and gore, then I can wholeheartedly point you to Jordan Peele’s NOPE. Just remember to know your limits when it comes to horror, so everyone can continue having a good time.