Jordan Peele’s third film, sci-fi thriller “Nope,” simultaneously works as a smart survival film and as an exploration of humanity’s darker tendencies.

Jordan Peele: writer, actor, producer, director. Even before his debut directorial film, Get Out (2017), audiences had a solid sense of Peele’s creativity from any of the projects he played any part in. Now, however, with his third film in the can and out in the world, audiences have confirmation that Peele is one of the most unique creative minds working today. Each of his helmed projects, Get Out, Us (2019), and, now, Nope (2022), are direct and specific in their exploration of humanist ideals (both corrupted and ethical), while also heavy with symbolism, allowing for a theoretical discussion to emerge post-watch. Of his three films, Nope is the longest and grandest, layering text and subtext so that audiences can choose to engage with either, deriving pleasure from the tale as either a cinematic spectacle or a profound exploration of humanity’s inability to see trauma as something that should be processed not exploited. Whichever way you view Nope, the home release from Universal Pictures offers several ways to explore Peele’s sci-fi thriller without fear of looking up.

Ordinarily, a first-time review on EoM seeks to be as spoiler-free as possible. However, as Nope hit theaters in July 2022 and this is a home release review, there will be some light spoilers as part of the discussion. Be advised moving forward.

Roughly six months since the tragic death of Otis Haywood Sr. (Keith David), his son Otis “OJ” Haywood Jr. struggles to keep the family business, Haywood Hollywood Horses, up and running. His sister Emerald (Keke Palmer) is working on breaking into Hollywood however she can, viewing the family business as little more than something to do while trying to do everything else. This changes when the two, sharing a rare night at the family home, experience something extraordinary as a strange shape is spotted moving through the clouds, among other eerie aspects. Deciding to catch this thing on camera in an effort to launch themselves into fame, thereby saving the business for OJ and creating a financial cushion for Emerald, the siblings hatch a plan that they soon realize may be too big for them to handle alone.


L-R: Daniel Kaluuya as OJ Haywood, Brandon Perea as Angel Torres, and Keke Palmer as Emerald Haywood in NOPE, written, produced and directed by Jordan Peele. © 2022 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Exploring Nope as a thriller, Jordan walks a fine line between tension and relief. Everything is grounded in realism in a way where things in the previous two projects were not. There’s no plot to use a scientific procedure to switch consciousness with another human, no subterranean duplicates living among us, just people trying to survive an animal attack. With this narrowed view in mind, the comparisons to Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (1975) are apt, as this is exactly the plot of that film. The central difference being that the shark in Jaws is less foreign and, therefore, less unsettling than the creature OJ dubs Jean Jacket, the name of Emerald’s first horse. Animals in the ocean are one thing, but in the sky? On this scale? With the kinds of powers that Jean Jacket seems to possess? It’s unnerving to say the least, but it’s not unsettling — not really — because, and this is the weird part, not knowing can weird you out, but knowing can make your blood run cold. That’s why Jaws continues to keep people out of the water, whereas the concept of an alien flying around our skies is, itself, not enough to warrant interrogating every cloud one sees. Nope is as thrilling as it is from the knowing, which Peele presents upfront at near every opportunity, the realization of that information being the thing that sends chills up your spine in the wake of the credits. For instance, past the opening involving the Gordy set and the opening credits, the audience is introduced to Otis Sr. and OJ, when all the electronics die, a loud-yet-muffled scream passes overhead, and then debris falls from the sky, a coin hitting Otis Sr. in his right eye. Later, after the time jump and just before OJ and Emerald’s first interaction with the creature in the sky, OJ overhears an announcement from their several-miles-away rural neighbor, western-themed park Jupiter’s Claim, as owner Ricky “Jupe” Park (Steven Yuen) talks about an amazing discovery six months prior. We’re given pieces of information, some that we can understand, some we can’t, but, once we put them all together, a picture forms in which we understand that not only were the noises we first heard upon meeting Otis Sr. and OJ are, in fact, screams of fear and pain and the debris is a direct result of Ricky’s choices. Ricky is, to continue the comparison, Mayor Vaughn (Murray Hamilton), only concerned with how to make money, less interested in the violence and terror that may follow in the pursuit. The film as a whole doesn’t work in the 1:1 comparison, but it’s evident, well before Peele makes a comment himself confirming as such in the bonus features, that Nope is a modern fantastical take on the animal attack narrative. Like his previous films, there’s a strong logic anchoring everything we see, allowing the film to tell a story outside the metaphors (Get Out) while also surviving the questioning that arises from trying to analyze the deeper portions of the film (not so much with Us).

So, what do I mean by this?


Steven Yeun as Ricky “Jupe” Park in NOPE, written, produced and directed by Jordan Peele. © 2022 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

The film itself opens with a flashback to the Gordy television set, a fictional program in which a young Ricky was the star. We learn details later, as well as see some of the incident for ourselves, that, while shooting a scene, the titular chimpanzee of the program (played by the excellent Terry Notary (The Square; Kong: Skull Island)) attacked the cast and the only person left physically unharmed was Ricky. This scene establishes the deeper failure that courses through Nope, separating the Haywood family from everyone else. The Haywoods have a deep respect for the horses they train, understanding that their livelihood comes from well-trained animals, but that no matter what they call them or how they treat them, they are still animals. The Hollywood Machine, however, doesn’t see them as anything more than a means to an end. So much so that no one thought, within the world of Nope, that the balloons used in the scene with Gordy might trigger a deadly fight-or-flight response. Even Ricky, who survived that instance, never really recovered. By the time we meet him, he talks about the Gordy incident like a badge of honor, but via a quick flashback the audience sees how plain it is that he still isn’t over it. Even further undercutting the darkness of where Ricky is (though not in a malicious way) is that he has a staged museum-like room with items from the Gordy set, specifically the day of the attack, that he shows off (sometimes for free, sometimes for a fee) to those interested. The lesson Ricky learned is that people are more interested in pain, in the rending of flesh and sinew, than they are wholesome stories. (To a degree, this speaks to the audience who comes to see Peele’s films.) After this scene, the audience learns that Ricky has been approaching OJ to sell the property. No details are provided regarding the scope or cost and it’s not mentioned again, but it’s another seed Peele places that, when one considers the offer of sale, the announcement we hear Ricky make in the distance, and the truth of the noises Jean Jacket makes, we can deduce that Otis Sr. is dead due to Ricky’s quest for fame. The pursuit of fame and fortune is dripping with blood and all Ricky can think of is how to control the creature to the benefit of he and his family. By contrast, the Haywoods don’t want to control the thing, they want to merely record it without being killed themselves (it attacks when it thinks it’s being observed). The only reason that the plan shifts from video capture to a kill mission is because it’s the only way to protect themselves from a creature whose function is little more than food harvesting. You can’t train that, you can barely control that, and even with the skills of the Haywoods, you can’t break that.


Writer/producer/director Jordan Peele on the set of NOPE. © 2022 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

To that end, it’s plain that Nope is as much about humanity and their failure as it relates to spectacle and violence. That, if we can put a price tag on it, we will and people will line up to buy it. Considering that Peele, himself, is the mind behind three disparate horror concepts, he possesses some sense of the world’s desire to explore dark delights within the safety of the silver screen. Each time, like most other horror films, Peele does it in order to ask questions about the human condition. With Nope, the intention speaks to the way in which the act of commodifying everything, without protection of, without consideration for, without awareness of others, frequently leads to bloodshed, and what it says about humanity that we keep asking for more. There’s a darkness at the heart of Nope and it’s not Jean Jacket, it’s us and our desire to be seen.

If analytical dissection is your jam, then the bonus features are likely to provide you with just the enjoyment you seek. Included in all formats is a typical gag reel, five deleted scenes, and two brief featurettes. The 14-minute featurette “Call Him Jean Jacket” offers an in-depth exploration that will answer questions about how the creature functions, the reality of such a creature, and the process of making it come to life. One of the things I love about Peele as a creative is his willingness to share with his audience that sometimes an idea is meant to inform the film and other times (or as a fun by-product) it’s just a way to freak people out well after the movie’s over. The other featurette, the five-minute “Mystery Man of Muybridge,” focuses on what we know about The Horse in Motion short film made by Eadweard Muybridge and how Peele manipulates that knowledge for his film. Worth noting is that, for this review, I utilized the digital code provided within the retail Blu-ray copy sent by Universal Pictures, and “Mystery Man” would not play properly. The first time I tried to play it there was no picture and only audio. The second time, picture and audio were in synch for a few seconds before the picture froze and the audio continued. So if you’d like to check out this featurette, play it off the disc for a more reliable viewing experience. The longest and most in-depth bonus feature is a nearly hour-long making-of short film titled “Shadows: The Making of Nope.” This goes through everything from Peele’s working relationship with cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema (Dunkirk; Ad Astra; TeneT), casting (as well as cast reactions to the script), pre-production, on-set production, and more. This is the goods regarding behind-the-scenes materials and, be advised, it’s not available on the DVD edition of the home release.

Discussing the film with EoM editor Crystal Davidson post-watch, I found myself enjoying Nope more and more as I parsed out my reaction. The way it functions as an animal attack film and how it functions as a warning against humanity’s habit of commodifying violence, the way that the film is excitingly uncomfortable on a first watch, but that (in knowing the secrets) rewatches are bound to be increasingly more unsettling, and how Nope is not just the proper response to all the weirdness on display, but also the right call when faced with the choice of domesticating an animal when you have no knowledge of said animal. As humans, we almost always struggle when we hear the word “No,” a rejection of a desire that we have. But, sometimes, “No” is what saves you so that you can earn the “Yes.” OJ understands this where Ricky does not. Hopefully, in a post-Gordy world, we will, too.

Nope Special Features:

  • Gag Reel – A highlight reel of bloopers and outtakes featuring main cast (5:29)
  • Call Him Jean Jacket – The object of the Haywood siblings’ fascination is an entity known only as “Jean Jacket.” Filmmakers provide insights into the conception, design, and execution of this mysterious organism. (14:23)
  • Mystery Man of Muybridge – A deep dive into The Horse in Motion by Eadweard Muybridge, its relationship to the Haywoods, and how it relates to the larger themes in Nope. (5:31)
  • Five (5) Deleted Scenes – Watch five unreleased scenes from Nope (9:43)
  • Shadows: The Making of Nope* – Unpack the meaning of Nope with Jordan Peele. Secrets are revealed with this 56-minute immersion exploring the film’s unanswered questions, taking you on an intimate journey inside every aspect of production and offering a detailed look at Peele’s revolutionary filmmaking process. (56:09)

*Not on DVD

Available on digital September 20th, 2022.
Available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and DVD October 25th, 2022.

For more information, head to the official Universal Pictures’s Nope website.

Final Score: 4.5 out of 5.

Nope 4K UHD

Categories: Films To Watch, Home Release, Home Video, Recommendation, Reviews, streaming

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