It’s a Western! It’s a sci-fi! Or is it a thriller? Nope, Jordan Peele’s newest film is all that and more: a clever social commentary tackling race, capitalism, and the exploitation that accompanies the world of entertainment, all from a family-owned horse ranch on the outskirts of L.A.
Oh, and it’s funny, too.
The genius behind “Us” and “Get Out” gives us a roadmap at the start of the film, opening with a bible passage from the Old Testament, “I will pelt you with filth, I will treat you with contempt and make you a spectacle.” Sounds dark, right? That’s because it is. The film then cuts to a chaotic, bloody scene: the aftermath of a sit-com chimpanzee gone savage. We learn later that in the 1990s, “Gordy” the chimpanzee animal actor, lost his mind during a scripted birthday celebration on the set. The popping of the balloons and raucous celebration went too far; Gordy got scared and set out on a murderous rampage, killing several of the actors on the spot.
Another animal freaks out early in the film. OJ, a horse wrangler from a black-owned ranch which works with the film industry, is on a shoot with his horse for an advertisement. Despite OJ’s pleas, the makeup artist and the camera crew don’t back off and give the horse space. When one of the tech guys shoves a giant round mirror in the horse’s face, the animal understandably startles and bucks, kicking an assistant and losing his spot in the advertisement.
The message seems to be clear: If we, as a society, don’t reign in our obsession with spectacle and stop exploiting those around us, it can kill us.
But wait a second. There’s something else going on in this film that could kill us: There are aliens!
Yup. Some creepy extra-terrestrial has taken up residence in a permanent “cloud” high above the ranch, shutting down electricity and wreaking havoc before it sucks up some of the resident humans and horses. (It also sucked up and killed, like, 40 tourists visiting a nearby theme park.)
OJ and his sister, Em, aren’t having it and concoct a scheme to capture recordings of alien activity so they can at least make some money to keep their ranch afloat. An eccentric Hollywood filmmaker and the local Fry’s electronics guy, along with OJ and Em, devise a plan that results in some pretty spectacular action sequences. Picture Steven Spielberg-type, big sky UFO action, complete with some horseback chases and narrow escapes. Oh, and there’s that weird TMZ guy who shows up in the middle of everything. I won’t tell you what happened to him.
All in all, Nope is pretty dope. This film is one wild ride, more entertaining than scary, but delightfully so. After all, what’s scarier? A creepy alien that sucks up unsuspecting horses and humans, or the brutal exploitation of people and animals in the name of spectacle?
(And if you’re wondering, there are no horrific horse deaths in this film. We do see horses get sucked up by the alien, but nothing terrible. Gordy, the savage chimp, endures a bloodier fate.)
Rating: R for language throughout and some violence/bloody images
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Director: Jordan Peele
Producer: Jordan Peele
Runtime: 2h 15m
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