What is Jordan Peele’s Nope REALLY about?

NOPE - Courtesy Universal Pictures
NOPE - Courtesy Universal Pictures /

The trailers for the much anticipated Jordan Peele’s Nope are intentionally ambiguous and vague.  Now that the movie is in theaters, its meaning is still ambiguous.  A Jordan Peele movie is always more than just the action on the screen as Get Out reminded us that the true horrors are literal, and Us showcased our fear that we are our own worst enemy.  So can Nope really just be a summer popcorn blockbuster, or are we overthinking and overanalyzing its meaning because that’s just the kind of movie Jordan Peele makes?

Everything Jordan Peele puts in his movies is significant, and usually is called back later in the film.  For this reason, the first two scenes that seem completely unrelated, lay the groundwork for the main plot of the movie.  First we are shown a small sub-plot barely hinted at in the previews where a chimpanzee has gone feral on the set of a TV show and attacked its co-stars.  Cut to a Western where OJ Haywood’s father is training a horse on the family ranch and suddenly debris is falling with such force from the sky, the man’s brain is impaled and he dies.   Six months later is where the meat of the story begins.

OJ, the youngest in a long lineage of Hollywood horse trainers and jockeys, played with intensity and stoicism (although his well-timed deadpan repetitions of the film title “nope” are some of the most humorous parts of the movie) by Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out, Black Panther), is barely holding the ranch together financially without the expertise and reputation of his father.  In an industry where live animals are easily replaced by CGI, horse trainers are not as in demand as they once were and he is forced to sell off horses to make ends meet.  His sister, Em played with barely contained sprightly energy by Keke Palmer  (Lightyear, Hustlers) works any hustle in Hollywood from Kraft services to tailoring to make ends meet.  After a failed commercial shoot where OJ’s horse Lucky gets spooked, Em joins OJ at the ranch just as the strange occurrences tied to that thing in the sky that have been happening for about six months escalate in intensity.

Jordan Peele's Nope
Jordan Peele’s Nope – Courtesy Universal Pictures /

If you’re looking for spoilers for Jordan Peele’s Nope, don’t look here

It is difficult to write about Jordan Peele’s Nope without giving away too much of the film – going in without knowing much more than there is something dangerous and scary in the sky is the absolute best way to experience this movie.  The movie mixes multiple genres to become a comedic alien invasion horror monster flick Western.  Steven Yeun (best known as Glenn from The Walking Dead) plays a former child star still seeking glory by using any means necessary to capitalize on the potential world-changing presence above his Western-themed amusement part.  His character could be sad, or sleazy, but Yeun plays him sincerely and earns your sympathy even as he does shady things.

The tech wizard Angel, a refreshingly relatable Brandon Parea (The OA) is an uninvited but greatly appreciated guest electronics store tech (think “geek squad”) and alien aficionado in this wild hunt for evidence of the UFO (or “UAP,” Unidentified Aerial Phenomena as Angel explains to the Haywood siblings).  Parea adds some much needed levity and heart to the movie, and makes a good bridge between the siblings’ wildly different personalities.  The last person to round out this Fab Five is the (IMHO) legendary Michael Wincott (The Crow) as creepily intense cinematographer Antlers Holst looking obsessively for the impossible shot.

Jordan Peele’s Nope does have plenty of allegory for analysis – is it about the lure of capitalism?  Is a commentary on Hollywood’s toxic obsession with spectacle? Is it about the white-washing of the history of Westerns?  Or is it just a summertime popcorn blockbuster?  Whatever you get from the film, enjoy the spectacle – there are jump scares, gore, laugh out loud moments, and tension galore.  With sweeping cinematography, a compelling score, and incredible nuanced performances, Jordan Peele’s Nope is really fun to watch, and something I continued to contemplate well after leaving the theater.  I will definitely watch this again, as a re-watch with knowledge of the ending will most likely elevate the beginning.

One more thing before I go – if you are a person with a small bladder who is always worried about missing something important in a movie because you just can’t make it two hours without a trip to the restroom, the Run Pee app can take those worries away.  The app tells you the best times to go, how long those moments last, and even gives a synopsis of the part you’re missing to read while you’re doing your business.  The paid version even has a timer that goes off 30 seconds before each pee time!  I found this app before watching Avengers Endgame and it has only gotten better since then.  If you’re like me, I highly recommend giving it a try!

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Do you prefer to analyze the deeper meanings behind Jordan Peele’s horror movies or take the movie at face value?  Let me know in the comments.