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Movie Review: NOPE is Peele’s Best Film Yet

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Tucked away near Highway 5 Grapevine is a small community called Agua Dulce. Only Jordan Peele can make one of the most unique places in California scary. Read on for a review of the NOPE movie, which may be Jordan Peele’s best movie yet.

NOPE movie review

In NOPE siblings Otis Jr (Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald (Keke Palmer) struggle to keep their family business afloat after the tragic death of their father. The Hayward family business is horses, they train horses for movies and have a small farm in Agua Dulce, California. The farm is in a relatively empty area, and the Haywood’s closest neighbor is Ricky “Jupe” Park a child actor who operates a small gold rush theme park.  

Emerald stays to help Otis on the farm but quickly they figure something is not quite right with their horses. The horses seem scared by something just off in the distant clouds and with the help of a computer tech, they set up a camera to capture what is terrorizing the animals. 

And what is terrorizing the horses? 

A completely otherworldly entity that the Haywoods don’t understand and certainly don’t want to be a victim of.

I screened NOPE in IMAX which everyone should do. The cinematography is NOPE adds a creepy and desolate edge to the Agua Dulce landscape.  Filmed just north of Santa Clarita in North Los Angeles county, you expect to see clear skies and puffy clouds in the area but Peele makes even the brightest skies look menacing.  And coupled with that soundtrack?  The mixture of the soundtrack plus the sounds of the mysterious entity ups the creep factor.

The majority of the performances in NOPE are fantastic. Daniel Kaluuya as Otis Jr is a marvel.  He weighs decisions before making them, calmly & methodically navigating the worst to ensure survival. He mutters “nope” just a few times, which is funny because as the movie makes clear, Black people do not mess with stuff we don’t understand!

Keke Palmer and Daniel Kaluuya are getting their deserved kudos and we need to include Steven Yeun in that.  In NOPE, Yeun’s character “Jupe” has a wonderful monologue where he dreamily retells a story and the result is a stunning moment where I was thoroughly creeped out. 

Yeun is easily one of the most underrated actors in this film, putting on a carefully crafted performance of a survivor that didn’t quite learn his lesson, which adds to the uneasy feelings of the viewer.

Is NOPE a perfect film? 

Not quite. 

There are pacing issues and the movie runs too long.  There aren’t many deep moments and the movie sticks to its theme that nature is impossible to tame.  But overall, it’s an enjoyable film and I’m grateful to get to experience Peele’s talent in IMAX.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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