Nope. Gordy said nope! So did the godawful thing in the sky.
Something strange is going on in Aqua Dulce, something unquestionably sinister too. But instead of fleeing, the residents attempt to record and even exploit this danger, in the misbelief that they can fraternise with the threat. Would they succeed in capitalising on the menace the likes of a circus show or would they end up devoured by their naivety?
Down the road, if not already happening, Jordan Peele will be a name that’s a must-study in film courses.
You might not agree with his dissertations on racial dynamics and social phenomena, but I think there is no doubt that this is a man capable of layering story genres like a magnificent wedding cake, with his end masterpieces always the stuff that you’d remember for a long time.
An auteur, in other words.
In the case of Nope, some reviews are describing it as Peele’s weakest directorial effort to date. I, on the other hand, feel it’s his most distressing story to date. His most worryingly realistic too. Because the message at the heart of this cautionary tale is one that strikes so close.
It’s like, the man is completely right, isn’t he? We humans are so easily fascinated by danger. How often do we continue to stare at a threat in the eye, much like a kid gazing at a weird cloud, when we should be scuttling away?
How often do we then imagine ourselves as able to befriend or even benefit from danger, especially if we have survived unspoken threats before? The latter, what the movie termed a bad miracle.
I think all of us have unglamourous answers to the above questions. I admit I do. And that’s why the story unnerved me so much.
On the use of animals and the Travis incident to personify the above phenomena, decisions that I suspect will draw criticism, I personally don’t think Peele is expressing any phobia of animals. Instead, I believe he is declaring his disdain for the way animals are used in showbiz. This, perhaps, also an allegory for the plight of non-white people in the earliest days of public entertainment.
Daniel Kaluuya’s OJ * clearly demonstrates what Peele believes is the only way to work with animals. They can be befriended and led, but you must never assume humanly beliefs with them. End of the day, feral beasts are not human and they have no inclination to adhere to our systems.
Moving on to technicalities, Nope regrettably displays a certain struggle with pacing. Some segments are too spaced out, seemingly a mirror of how easily humans are distracted. Intense as it overall is, I felt the finale is too long too.
But like all great movies, the goodies far outweigh the bads. Outside of the story, this is also a cinematic masterpiece that is utterly confident in its acceptance of the “less is more” adage. And in doing so, reminds that sound alone can be superior to the most visceral gore.
Were I to write a list of the best movies I’ve watched in 2022, Nope will definitely be among the top entries, if not the champion.
* Is this choice of name itself a ridicule of the circus show that happened three decades ago?
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