Why “Nope” for a movie title?
According to reports and interviews quoting director Jordan Peele and cast members, “Nope” refers to African-Americans’ typical verbal reaction when watching crazy, foreboding scenes in horror flicks. The word (to clarify my point) is a variation of “Oh, hell no.”
There are similar responses within the movie, Peele’s third and best. For all the secrecy about its plot and subject, not to mention its peculiar name, “Nope” proves superior to his previous creations, “Get Out” and “Us.”
From this picture’s get-go, viewers may be simultaneously perplexed and intrigued by what unfolds.
The only thing clear in the opening minutes – which include glimpses of menacing blood-stained chimpanzee Gordy – is that Peele has carved a unique trail of terror. When the creature (embodied by Terry Notary) slowly turns with a disturbing gaze toward the camera, that moment sets the tone.
We shift to a remote ranch, where David Keith has a fateful cameo as the father figure, property owner and kingpin of Haywood Hollywood Horses, whose ancestors were Tinseltown’s first stuntmen and horse wranglers.
Dad’s assistant is son Otis Jr. (also known as “O.J.” portrayed by Daniel Kaluuya), who minds his business until something wicked and inexplicable this way comes.
It isn’t long before O.J.’s sister (Keke Palmer) emerges to star in a commercial whose cameraman Antlers (raspy Michael Wincott) will resurface later in the story.
Other central players comprise a surveillance equipment tech (Brandon Perea) hired by the Haywoods, and a carnival barker (Steven Yeun) with a personal link to the aforementioned chimp.
What exactly is going on in the air up there? Without spoiling the fun, let’s just say the purported enemy wreaks havoc in an eye-popping majestic manner with extra-special effects.
“Nope” makes effective use of a praying mantis and inanimate objects like inflatable sky dancers (found outside car dealerships), a fake horse, coins, keys and so forth.
It helps considerably when you have a lively, compelling cast. Foremost is Kaluuya, the England native who demonstrates again – as in “Widows” and “Get Out” – he is an unaffected performer incapable of a false gesture. Kaluuya exudes a je ne sais quoi essence, no matter the circumstances.
Palmer proves watchable and charismatic, as does the relatively unknown Perea. Gravel-voiced Wincott’s role as the eccentric shutterbug appears tailor-made for the actor, who nails it with authentic precision.
The entire production of “Nope” is a smart, witty and mystifying assault on our senses. It is bursting with confidence and texture.
Regardless of what’s happening in the swirling sky and on the dusty ground, Peele and crew capture the proceedings with electrifying cinematography while conjuring up a sense of anxiety. The upshot is a one-of-a-kind cinematic experience.