Could “NOPE” be a nope?

A critical analysis of a 2022 film “NOPE”

A grainy footage of a man on a horse. A chimpanzee on a murderous rampage. A house tinted wine-red with blood. Jordan Peele’s film “NOPE” fuses dissonant factors into an electrifying carousel of grotesque imagery and pop culture. With unique camera angles and whimsical storytelling inspired by filmmakers like Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick, Peele presents to his audience a classic summer horror film.

“NOPE” revolves around Emerald and OJ Haywood – played by Keke Palmer and Daniel Kaluuya – attempting to capture a “spectacle in the sky” on film, desperate to save their horse-wrangling business inherited from their dead father. Nearby, a theme park is run by an entrepreneur-turned child actor Ricky “Jupe” Park – played by Steven Yeun – exploiting the “spectacle in the sky” for profit.

Unlike many of his other films (notably the 2019 horror/thriller “Us”), “NOPE” does not strongly assert a form of social commentary but rather adds in fine-drawn nuances to what would otherwise be a simple summer monster movie.

The theme of surveillance is repeatedly emphasized throughout 2022 film “NOPE,” through vivid imagery of cameras and intricate systems of cinematography within the film.

Among these nuances is the subtle reference to the concept of “surveillance” in the contemporary world. Surveillance is a concept that may be seen as potentially harmful to someone’s privacy, lead to the leakage of personal information, or incentivise the exploitation of one’s vulnerabilities. The Haywood siblings prioritize the capture of the spectacle on camera – repeatedly referred to as “The Oprah shot” throughout the film – while risking their lives. Contrary to the idea of the exposure of privacy due to surveillance (hence the narrative of Orwell’s “1984”), the siblings use surveillance to expose a spectacle/danger to society, ultimately refracting the negative stereotypes of surveillance. The watched become watchers, the prey become predators.

Unfortunately, the subtleness of the commentary rather decreases the effectiveness of the strength at which the message is conveyed. There is no definitive, striking way any of these references reach out to the audience as his other iconic films like “Us”  or “Get Out” did. The symbolism that backs said films are much more sensitive and bold (Peele’s criticism of the U.S. politics seen in the “Us,” as well as criticism of slavery and racism in “Get Out”), relative to the more vague and more passive symbolism behind “NOPE” that one could find. Peele’s films aside “NOPE” also contained riveting plot twists that helped highlight the symbolism. Plot twists (often revealed towards the end of a film) allow for the audience to develop a new perspective of a film, whilst reinstating information from their first impression of a film. “NOPE” itself simply was written around the unsurprising “hero” archetype (“good guys” beat the “bad guys”) with no plot twists whatsoever, yet again decreasing the efficacy of the symbolic values.

This is the primary reason why the film was underwhelming in magnitude, relative to other works of Peele. This does not necessarily mean that “NOPE” was an awful film, but a disappointing one; the lack of strong symbolism does not impair Peele’s ability to tell a ravishing story. Peele confidently incorporates elements of the elements of a well-made horror film, from tensional buildups to a jump scare of good taste. Perhaps people should simply sit back and enjoy Peele’s film as it is. No overthinking, no overanalyses. Perhaps this was what Peele truly wanted for “NOPE.”