Jordan Peele is an enigma. A career beginning in hilarious sketch comedy on Mad TV and Key & Peele has successfully turned into a brilliant career as a horror director with his show-stopping directorial debut, Get Out, and his chilling sophomore feature, Us. Three years after his most recent triumphant film, Peele returns to the big screen with the highly anticipated Nope. This is a science fiction horror film featuring a ranch-owning brother and sister attempting to capture video evidence of a UFO after random objects fall from the sky. Is this another victorious effort from this fascinating director? Nope.While Get Out was universally praised, the reception for Us was more divided for audiences. Nope has the potential to be even more polarizing, as it is Peele’s most daring effort yet. Every choice he makes is a flip of a coin as to whether critics and audiences will like it. From my perspective, this movie was an unfortunate misfire with a massive amount of talent in front of and behind the camera that doesn’t have a script ready to match it. It’s very different from his other work, but that does not ultimately pay off.The film has an interesting setup with its two leads as OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald (Keke Palmer) make up a phenomenal brother-sister duo. OJ is quiet and reserved, while Emerald is funny and animated. The premise involves objects falling from the sky and OJ believing a UFO has caused it. This event leads to the death of their father, and it’s the only personal look at why OJ and Emerald are so dedicated to capturing the UFOs on camera. However, after the father’s death, he is barely mentioned again, and the opportunity for a solid emotional core is squandered.Something that persisted in Peele’s earlier work was a double meaning in much of the dialogue. You think back to the scene in Get Out when Dean is giving Chris a tour of the house and moments in Us where every detail has an eventual payoff. Unfortunately, that’s part of what’s lacking in this film since Peele’s characteristically sharp writing is filled with dialogue that doesn’t have the bite of his other work. There are well-written moments, and Peele knows how to use levity without killing the tension of a scene, but nothing feels like it builds up too much.Parts of the film can almost feel Shyamalan-esque, and I mean that in the good way and the bad way. At its core, this movie feels the most like Signs and offers some of the movie’s best qualities. An alien invasion from the perspective of one family in one house leads to excellent moments. Instead of a third-person worldwide look at a catastrophic event, everything is shown from a low angle, putting us in the shoes of our characters. Yet other moments feel like the worst of Shyamalan with stilted dialogue and unearned plot beats.The film’s second act is where everything meanders the most. While a movie like Get Out constantly builds mystery and suspense, the mystery in Nope feels one-note for much of the film. There are nail-biting moments of tension where Peele gets to flex his horror muscles, but the movie essentially only features a saucer in the sky with one critical development an hour and a half into the film. In addition, the movie doesn’t have the never-ending tension you would expect, featuring a subplot about a chimpanzee on a sitcom that never ties into the alien story or goes anywhere.But none of this is to say there isn’t impeccable craftsmanship to be found, though. This movie offers sci-fi direction at its best with some jaw-dropping spectacle perfectly suited for the Imax screen. Everything builds to Peele’s biggest finale yet, with a heart-pumping ending and earth-quaking sound design. Unfortunately, the writing does not come to par with a story lacking momentum and characters that would have benefitted from stronger development. Some may watch Nope and see artistic brilliance; I saw a daring effort from a filmmaker who has made two of my favorite horror movies come up short in the execution.SCORE: 5/10As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 5 equates to “Mediocre.” The positives and negatives wind up negating each other, making it a wash.Disclosure: The critic attended the world premiere for ComingSoon’s Nope review.
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