MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Nope - In Theaters
Directed by Jordan Peele
Starring Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer
Writer-director Jordan Peele loves movies, especially horror movies. His first two films (Get Out and Us) had serious things to say about racism and class divisions, and were filled with moments of dark humor as well as dozens of references to the movies that inspired Peele to become a filmmaker.
Nope is no exception to this practice, and Peele has said that the movie pays tribute to such films as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, North by Northwest, King Kong, Jurassic Park, Signs, and The Wizard of Oz (and I would add War of the Worlds to the list). This movie goes off in many directions with no particular interest in explaining or resolving its problems.
The less you know about the plot, the better.
The film begins with a biblical quote from Nahum 3:6 – “I will cast abominable filth upon you, make you vile, and make you a spectacle.” These words are God’s judgment on the city of Nineveh, but also foreshadowing of things to come to Otis Jr. and Emerald, a brother and sister (Kaluuya and Palmer) who wrangle horses for use in Hollywood films. We see their father (Keith David) die in a freak accident. After his passing the two siblings discern that their days in movies are dwindling as animals are replaced with CGI effects. They find another opportunity when Jupe (Steven Yuen), a former child star, buys some of their horses for use in his nearby wild west theme park.
There are ominous signs in the sky of visitors from beyond (some have suggested that NOPE is an acronym for “Not of Planet Earth”). OJ and Emerald head to a big box store to purchase a security system and are soon joined by Angel (Brandon Perea), a store employee who comes with them to install and explain the new equipment.
Hoping to eventually obtain proof of UAPs worthy of “the Oprah shot”, they link up with Antlers Holst (Michael Wincott), a cinematographer who happens to have a hand-crank powered IMAX camera. All they need to do now is wait and watch the skies.
You will also do a lot of waiting for things to happen. Viewers expecting a fast-paced roller coaster should instead adjust expectations to a lazy river ride with a few jump scares along the way. Nope is deliberately paced and in no hurry to reach its final destination.
It’s a bit of a mess, but intelligent enough to provide plenty of things to talk about, including racism, show business, outsiders, conspiracy theorists, and consumerism. If you want to contemplate the universe and God’s part in all of this, feel free.
I am hoping to see Nope again in a week or two on a big IMAX screen. I am sure that I will have more to think about, since every one of Jordan Peele’s films rewards multiple viewings.
Peele also gets good performances out of his cast and keeps the storyline human-centered all the way. Did I love this movie? Nope. But I like it enough to recommend it to adventurous filmgoers. I have a feeling that its reputation will expand over the years as more people spend time thinking about it. That’s a pretty good reason to see a movie, in my opinion.
Halo and Pitchfork Rating:
Three halos: An unfocused but absorbing blend of science fiction, western, and horror that is mostly rewarding after a time of reflection.
Three pitchforks: Strong swearing; brief moments of intense gore on and off screen; brief scenes of marijuana and alcohol use.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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