“This dream you’re chasing, where you end up at the top of the mountain, all eyes on you… it’s the dream you never wake up from.”Antlers Holst
Marketed as an extraterrestrial mystery, Jordan Peele’s third feature seems structured haphazardly as it morphs into a classic monster movie befitting the 70mm projection I saw. Its intention to obfuscate emerges from its opening with two separate and bloody prologues, followed by a long and meandering opening act that follows two sibling horse-wranglers — one laconically disengaged and the other energetically grating. The most enjoyable films of this type either trim the fat and dive straight into the meat like Tremors or focus almost entirely on the human relationships like Monsters. Nope lies somewhere between, though it tends toward the latter with Peele’s script exploring the capitalist tendencies that lead the siblings to an obsession with capturing footage of the UFO that they can exploit, whilst a nearby amusement park owner seeks to turn it into a crowd-pleasing spectacle. A particularly uncomfortable scene demonstrates the extent to which Yuen’s character is willing to market his own childhood trauma, a discarded subplot that is arguably more interesting. The film’s second half is more straightforward but also more successful, with familiar scenes as the characters learn the rules of interacting with the entity, and jury-rig solutions out in the California desert, its wide expanse of hills and skies captured dramatically by Hoyte Van Hoytema. With its overarching themes about humanity’s desire to control and exploit nature — and the risk in attempting to do so — Nope is not really covering new ground for the genre, but it is still an impressively-made throwback.