‘Are you not entertained!?‘
Despite unlimited access to the internet, intensified by an overabundance of viral videos bearing the shelf life of a banana, America’s rapacious appetite to be amused seems to only grow rampant. In Hollywood, this attraction often warps into a wanton craving for death and violence. This isn’t a modern revelation exclusive to our society, mind you; just look back to the inhumane diversion that was the Roman Colosseum, and it’ll grow clear this phenomenon wasn’t born from the latest Saw movie. (How many damn movies do they have now? 12?) Writer/Director Jordan Peele’s summer blockbuster Nope examines our insidious desires through a critical lens — while brewing a thematic concoction of cosmic horror, animal cruelty, sybaritic lifestyles in Hollywood, with some Spaghetti Western inspo peppered if all that weren’t weird enough for you. The result? A delightful spectacle of its own and one of the most imaginative films to exist on this side of the pandemic. (If you read that opening paragraph and aren’t hungry and/or thirsty, are you really human?)
Peeling back the layers
The opening quote is the first to clue us in on the spirit of Nope: a biblical poem from The Book of Nahum — all but capturing the overarching theme of the film, “I will pelt you with filth, I will treat you with contempt and make you a spectacle” – Nahum 3:6. Early on, we see a resemblance to Peele’s previous films Get Out and Us — with both flourishing as smart social allegories. Nope continues this trend, yet its commitment to multidimensional storytelling makes grasping its themes in one sitting an exercise in futility. A design that quakes under its own ambition at times.
That isn’t to say the narrative is desultory or its dialectic ideas meander throughout its 135 minute runtime. In fact, the plot is coated in simplicity, allowing casual viewers to follow its story comfortably. The real brilliance of Peele’s films lies in their masterful use of disarming levity and directorial idiosyncrasies to conceal contentious social commentary. With Get Out, he counters the notion of a “post-racial America” by flipping white liberal bigotry into satirical horror. Us, he shrouds didactic commentary on class and privilege with an engrossing psychological thriller. Now with Nope, he scrutinizes exploitative showmanship and society’s twisted curiosity (“Wanna see a dead body?”). By infusing whimsical character moments to personify authentic reactions of its audience (exhibit A: the film’s cheeky title), Peele cleverly puts the pill in the peanut butter, warding off hasty claims of self-righteous “wokeism”.
If it seems my opinion of Nope is remarkably abstract, even for a spoiler-free analysis, your suspicion is well founded. The purpose? It’s arguably a film best viewed knowing little about its premise. Throughout the weeks, the prevailing criticism I’ve observed for Nope is it’s a vastly different film than the trailers let it off to be. And after doubling back on the teaser trailers, I’ll give credence to their ambivalence. Outside of scrolling past the sporadic promo pic, I walked into the theatre as oblivious as can be, with little expectation outside of a familiarity with Peele’s previous work. My advice: Don’t compromise your experience by diving any deeper than you have to (We’re glad you’re here though!) – this is truly one you’ll have to see for yourself.
Jordan Peele’s films are the best example of temporal distortion in cinema today. They’re enthralling, and it’s easy to become swept up from moment to moment. Nope is no exception, flourishing as a spectacle of simplicity, while being one of the most original films I’ve seen post-pandemic. Its narrative design bites off more than it can chew at times with scenes too nebulous for even the most forgiving cinephile. Even so, Nope is a refreshing standout film in a summer filled with interchangeable superhero flicks and popcorn movies. I’d rate it 100% worth your time, if not just to witness the spectacle of an enigmatic piece of art.