I am mixed positive on Jordan Peele as a writer/director.
I like his films. Don’t love them the way others seem to love them.
Get Out remains the most complete film in his 3-film directing history. Clear idea. Smart. Well acted. Well shot. Really good Twilight Zone.
The ambition of US overwhelmed Peele, in my view. Edgier, more complex piece… but didn’t close the concept as well as it started.
Nope seems more simple… and more complex. A bit more Tarantino-y, but inifintely more patient than Quentin has ever been. In fact, this movie is super patient, in a now-rare old-school way. It has a bit of Paul Thomas Anderson too… though darker and more flatly violent at times than PTA is interested in going.
The set-up, as you have seen in ads (no spoilers here), is a horse ranch that has horses trained for movies/tv production. At the center, the quiet and ever-brooding Daniel Kaluuya as O.J. Haywood. By his side is Keke Palmer, the Energizer bunny of the film. Home run movie star Oscar-nomination-possible performance there. Brandon Perea turns up as the “get me a young Dave Franco” bleached blonde geek.
Nearby, child actor Ricky 'Jupe' Park, played by Steven Yeun, owns a western-style theme-park based on the character he played as a kid.
What do The Haywoods have to do with Jupe Park, aside from being in the same valley in the wild area of Los Angeles?
What does the star-chimp from Jupe’s childhood show have to do with anything?
What is actually happening in the skies above their valley?
That’s the movie.
And that is where the discussion amongst viewers - pro and civilian - will begin.
I think the movie is very clear about its central theme of mankind misunderstanding nature. Some people, when thinking about that, will be all, “Whatcha talking about, Willis?”
I hope we can have a spoiler discussion about this in the comment section of ths piece.
Hoyte Van Hoytema is a master, known mostly for his exquisite work with Christopher Nolan. Carmen Cuba’s name always guarentees a great cast. Editor Nicholas Monsour is sneakily doing a lot by seeming to do very little here. His work is key. Terry Notary brings his unique skills to the party, though I believe he is replaced completely by CG when we see hs work.
I like the movie. More, I think, than Peele’s other work.
It is, in many ways, a Clint Eastwood western with Kaluuya in the Eastwood role and a major fantasy twist that neither Eastwood or John Wayne ever faced. But he is the silent man who, through experience, quickly comes to understand what he is facing. (We, as an audience, probably take longer.) He has the strong woman by his side. And a funny sidekick. Even Jupe is a classic western character, sure he is going in the right direction by going a different direction than the lead.
What some will see as an inconsistency in the storyline, I see as PTA-like seemingly seperate stories that eventually match up.
There are other surprises in the film that might require people to do some Googling about untamed and untamable nature.
It’s not a world-beating kind of movie, as Get Out became because we hadn’t seen a film really in that genre in a while (especially with Shyamalan spinning out in other directions). It’s good solid summer fun. It could be a quick hitter and a drop or audiences could keep going - including multiple viewings by the kids - for the next 6 weeks.
Did I like it? Yup.
Aside from this review… a note on the numbers. The film reportedly cost $68 million. It didn’t cost $68 million.
Peele has had great success twice in a row, working on a smaller budget. Here, you can see the budget is about the same as the others, plus maybe an extra $15 million in digital effects. That leaves at least $33 million to allocate. 1. Pay Peele. 2. Pay Kaluuya. 3. Pay a few others more than before, but a lot less than Kaluuya and Peele.
Technically, that is stil a $68 million movie. That’s what Universal apparently paid. And I’m sure there is clean back-end if the film does over $200 million worldwide.
But there are movies where you can see where the $68 million was spent. Not here. They took more time. They had more and bigger effects. Still… no. This movie really could have been made for $35 million. But it didn’t have to be. Jordan Peele and Daniel Kaluuya (and no Jason Blum here) have earned this budget. I would bet that most of it was used above the line, even though it is a movie without major box office stars, aside from Peele.
NOPE is a classic example of the "on paper it works" film. On paper, I can see why so many folks like and admire it. But, on screen, it doesn't come together. Kaluuya is a good actor but his laconic performance deadens the film with him as the lead. It might work in an Eastwood western, but, here he makes for a boring hero.