As a sucker for cowboys, aliens and Keke Palmer, I knew I was in for a treat when the trailer for Jordan Peele’s newest thriller, “Nope,” dropped.
The movie is broken up into its main story and a much shorter side story; its main plot follows Emerald (Palmer) and Otis (Daniel Kaluuya), whose family business as Hollywood horse handlers is rapidly losing money following their father’s passing in a freak accident, forcing them to sell their horses to a local theme park.
The side story, which opens the movie, very much could have been mistaken for an intro for Peele’s production company (Monkeypaw Productions) and led me to believe it wasn’t important until it begins to interweave itself into the plot.
Something I didn’t know upon the first watch is this part of the movie is based on a real-life tragedy, and Otis’ Oprah references are not just attempts to convey the magnitude of his ideas — but to directly reference this true story.
Without spoiling anything major, this becomes a sort of microcosm of the overarching theme of the movie, so it benefits you to pay close attention to everything you see in these scenes. I really loved the payoff here; it builds up nicely and gives just the right amount of shock to keep you in the mindset that this film isn’t just a fun little western flick.
As expected, Palmer absolutely shines in this role. She perfectly fits the character of Emerald, and her comedic timing brings a perfect amount of realism to the movie. Her responses to the most outlandish parts of the film are so real it feels like you’re watching an episode of “Ancient Aliens” on the History Channel in 2008.
Kaluuya’s performance as Otis is also absolutely phenomenal. He’s able to capture the innate calmness of Otis’ character while beautifully presenting why he is so driven to do whatever it takes to keep the ranch up and running at the same time. The subtleties of how Otis is meant to seem a little out of touch (in direct contrast with Emerald’s people-loving demeanor) naturally build up into his solutions to nearly every problem that arises within the film.
I loved the sibling dynamic between Palmer and Kaluuya. It’s so genuine and loving that it’s hard to believe they aren’t actually related in some capacity. It would be amazing to see these two share the screen again in some way or another.
I don’t really have any complaints about the movie as a whole, except for the usage of title cards with the names of Otis’ horses. Normally I’m a fan of using title cards to break up the main events of a story, but for some reason, these separations get muddled and become unnecessary. Maybe I missed something or the movie was just moving too quickly for me to see the need for them, but they seemed to emphasize something that wasn’t developed enough throughout the story.
I thoroughly enjoyed most of “Nope.” But while the concept is interesting and the cast is great, I felt as if it left something to be desired at its end. Throughout the story multiple plot points felt abandoned after receiving so much emphasis from the characters, making it seem like the movie was originally a lot longer but was cut down to its two-hour runtime. If this is the case, I would have loved a longer movie or even just a chance to see the scenes that were left on the cutting room floor, but hopefully, they accompany it when it comes out on DVD.