When the central mystery in Nope is finally revealed, it comes off as a little silly. However, writer and director Jordan Peele plays it all straight, and is such a strong filmmaker that the movie works as a good science fiction thriller.
Siblings Emerald (Keke Palmer) and Otis "OJ" Haywood (Daniel Kaluuya) own a ranch where they train horses for use in movies and television. Business has been drying up since the bizarre death of their father, Otis Sr. (Keith David), who was hit with debris falling down from the sky. To keep Haywood's Hollywood Horses afloat, OJ has been selling some of his horses to has-been former child star Ricky 'Jupe' Park (Steven Yeun), who operates a western-themed amusement park.
When OJ sees an unidentified flying object in the sky over the ranch, he and his sister decide to try and capture video footage of the mysterious object. They get help from tech salesman, Angel Torres (Brandon Perea), and an aging documentary filmmaker, Antlers Holst (Michael Wincott). Soon, it becomes abundantly clear that the object is a sinister entity. That is all I can say about the UFO without giving too much away.
Like his previous movies, Get Out (2017) and Us (2019), Peele constructs a smart slow burn to terror with social commentary woven into the story. Nope is good, but I don't think all of its elements work as well as they did in his other films.
Nope has recurring flashbacks to Ricky as a child on the set of a sitcom titled Gordy's Home, starring a chimpanzee as Gordy. Needless to say, the chimp goes berserk and goes on a bloody rampage. This is meant to build the character of Ricky and his later motivations, and it's also meant as subtext to the story. The Gordy moments are gruesome and dour, and don't really fit with the rest of the movie's tone, which is suspenseful and exciting. I think the mad chimp element may have worked better if Peele had taken a page out of Steven Spielberg's Jaws(1975), like have Ricky recount the horrific story in a monologue like Quint's Indianapolis story. Quint's speech in Jaws was effective, and, at the same time, made us understand the character's motivations.
Nope, however, does have a strong finale. Kaluuya and Palmer are great playing siblings who are opposites - OJ is the quiet thoughtful type, and Emerald is the extrovert. The actors make you root for their characters to battle this UFO and hopefully survive. And elevating the suspense to an insane level is the full-blooded music score by Michael Abels.
I like both Get Out and Us better than Nope, but this is a good movie. An imperfect Jordan Peele movie is still way better than most thrillers.