- Gareth Crook
Nope (2022) - 6/10
I know nothing about this going in. If you’ve not watched Nope yet and are planning to, stop reading this and go watch it, it’s best viewed going in cold. Maybe that’s true for all films, but certainly with Jordon Peele’s latest. Something has gone wrong. There’s a dead looking body on a TV set with a blood soaked monkey wandering around. That’s not a good sign and truthfully that’s all it is, a pre title sequence metaphorical sign. OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) is on a lonely looking Californian horse ranch when things start to happen. It’s a pretty arresting opening and chilling. Seriously I’m often a cynical viewer, but this gripped me instantly. Whether it can keep hold of me is another thing. You’d be a fool to feel comfortable with any Peele film though and as the opening titles fade, we cut into a whole other world, where OJ is less at ease and lonelier, but we feel more anchored… temporarily. A freak accident on the ranch that we just witnessed was just that, with a simple explanation, maybe this isn’t going to be as fantastical as first thought? OJ and his Sister Emerald (Keke Palmer) are horse wranglers for Hollywood film productions. We’re already getting a bit meta, but Peele’s intention here seems to be wrapping up a very simple story, in layers of smoke and mirrors. OJ and Emerald are chalk and cheese. She’s a ball of energy and OJ, well he’s struggling with the loss of ‘Pops’ in that freak accident. He wants the business to continue, but has to make ends meet by selling off some of the horses. Namely to a backwater Highway theme park who’s owner has a connection to that monkey at the start. That sign is back, but also it turns out, some loose reasoning. Dark moonlit deserts, spooked horses and glimpses of things that don’t make sense to OJ. Enter a UFO conspiracy plot, enforced by the local tech store geek, Angel (Brandon Perea) who helps the siblings with their plan to get rich and save the ranch. Now I’ll be honest, I’m all up for a bonkers alien story, but this is a bit of a hard sell. It looks great, it’s well acted, but he story feels a bit too loose and I really struggled to get engaged. Even Michael Wincott who I’ve not seen in anything since The Crow, merely peaks my interest for a moment with that deep voice as he’s introduced as the ridiculously named Antlers Holst, an avant garde cinematographer, who’s going to capture the money shot. I’m losing interest. Peele does just enough though, keeping the pivotal twists coming to make me think okay, I’m willing to see where this goes. Where it goes through is tropey albeit effective soft horror as the mystery in the sky reveals its intent. It’s inventive. I’ll give it that. It’s not a patch on Peele’s previous outings though. Maybe it’s just something inherently a bit naff about this kind of sci-fi, but it’s just too crazy. Peele has raised his bar pretty high and this disappointingly falls short. If you like quirky and batshit though, this has you covered and it’s certainly well produced.