Nope mixes sci-fi and horror in Get Out director Jordan Peele’s most visually accomplished film yet

In the skies above a dusty ranch on the outskirts of LA, something — or someone — is watching. A mysterious presence, an other-worldly entity. It appears briefly — like a smudged oval shape in a UFO photo — and occasionally it sends earthly debris raining down, like someone tipping out the contents of a celestial handbag.

Coins, keys, bits of plastic and general detritus fall from the sky — you want to watch you don’t get hit by anything sharp.

In writer-director Jordan Peele’s first two films, Get Out and Us, plots involving doppelgangers and body swaps showed us the world is a false front, hiding lethal dangers and dystopian conspiracies. In Nope, the California sky becomes a celestial Loch Ness, and people turn their cameras on it, trying to capture proof of the sinister thing that lurks behind its clouds, or just beyond the horizon.

Getting the money shot, however, proves to be a life-ending event for some.

Peele’s 2017 debut Get Out won a slew of awards, including an Academy Award for Best Screenplay.(Supplied by Universal Studios)

Like Peele’s previous films, the tone of Nope mixes internet urban legend, gallows humor and an appetite for forthright political critique. It’s also wrapped up in a widescreen cinematic package that is his most visually accomplished, and harks back to the blockbusters of the 70s and 80s.

The ranch where the UFO appears belongs to an African American family who train horses for Hollywood. Their patriarch (Keith David) is killed by the entity early in the film, so it’s left to his unassuming but diligent son OJ (an excellent Daniel Kaluuya, reuniting with Peele after his breakout role in Get Out) and fast-talking, prodigal daughter Em (a charming Keke Palmer) to carry on the business.

Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, and Brandon Perea in Nope
Nope is “about the human addiction to spectacle and the monetization of it,” Peele said at the film’s Hollywood premiere.(Supplied by Universal Studios)

They enlist salesclerk Angel from a big box tech store (a well-cast Brandon Perea, channeling minimum wage ennui) to install an elaborate, off-the-shelf security camera system at their house, to monitor the skies. It’s the kind of DIY flex you might expect from the suburban hero of a 70s Spielberg blockbuster — squint your eyes and Nope could be the love child of Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

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