Devon Thomas23 September 2022 | 10:00

'Nope': An appropriately unhinged parable about the dangers of exploitation

Despite slight tonal inconsistencies and minor plot holes, Jordan Peele's 'Nope' is a cinematic tour de force that proves that originality isn't dead, it's just evolving, writes Devon Thomas.

'Nope': An appropriately unhinged parable about the dangers of exploitation

Jordan Peele's 'Nope'. Picture: Facebook/NopeMovie


Contains spoilers throughout.

As a staunch Jordan Peele stan, Nope was probably the original film I was anticipating the most this year.

There’s just something about the way that Peele crafts his stories that always leaves me in awe, regardless of my opinion on the minor consistency issues of some of his concepts.

'Till this day, when conversations around "elevated horror" come about, Get Out is easily in my top five of all time.

Safe to say, I had very high expectations for this film - even if I’m not the biggest fan of alien sci-fi horror.

Unsurprisingly, Peele delivered one of the most evocative horror releases of 2022.

After about four watches of the film, I can confidently proclaim this to be yet another slam-dunk for Peele.

But before we dissect Jean Jacket, let’s get some spoiler-free formalities out of the way.

For those who still want to watch the film, the vaguest synopsis I can provide is two siblings living in a semi-secluded desert see an object in the sky and shenanigans ensue.

The film is written, directed, and produced by Peele and stars Daniel Kaluuya as 'OJ' Haywood, Keke Palmer as 'Em' Haywood, Brandon Perea as Angel Torres, and Steven Yeun as Ricky Park.

Overall, the film is a technical marvel: the casting is perfect, their chemistry is fantastic, the directing and script is A1, the cinematography is stunning, and it has the coolest alien-centric concept I have ever seen.

The film functions best if you go into it not knowing much and aren't expecting to see a full-on horror bloodfest.

Despite Peele misdirectingly marketing it as a standard horror/sci-fi flick, Nope isn’t really all that scary.

Yes, the horror elements in Nope are incredible when they’re given the time to take centre stage, and his ability to build and maintain tension is not lost in the film, but the film functions better as a genre-less film.

It has elements of comedy, sprinkles of fantasy, grandiose displays of sci-fi and the aforementioned hair-raising instances of horror.

Instead of being pigeonholed into a genre, Nope takes you on a journey using the best aspects of the genres it dabbles in and, somehow, makes it make sense.

My only actual gripe with the film is that there are instances in the movie where the tonal shifts caused by genre-bending at a whim take away from the gravity of particular moments.

This can especially be seen in Peele’s usage of comedy during moments of tension in the film, which almost disrupts the flow of the scene and the subtextual intentions of the film.

This is probably what threw many off about Nope. It’s tonally everywhere and if you go into it expecting Alien, you will be sorely disappointed.

Though its roots in elevated horror aren't as tangible as they are in Get Out and Us, Nope still manages to be a clever mediation on bad miracles, historical black erasure, exploitation and the dangers of seeking out fame and/or fortune.

Just as Get Out’s twist was Peele’s reinterpretation of the possession film and Us’s twist a reinterpretation of the slasher film, Nope’s twist takes everything we know about alien films to a place I am genuinely surprised they have not been taken to before.

So, let’s talk about it.


In Nope, somewhere in its second act, it's revealed that the alien ship the siblings - OJ and Em have been spotting is not, in fact, a ship.

Instead, the flying saucer in the sky is the actual alien, something OJ names Jean Jacket.

Honestly, I really should have seen it coming (because there was no way Peele was going to release a straightforward alien flick) but Jean Jacket’s reveal actually took me by surprise.

What makes this twist so good is not the unveiling of Jean Jacket, but rather how the film builds to the reveal and then uses what it built to flesh the remainder of the story out.

Yes, this should be standard fair for twists, but all too often – particularly in horror – a twist is just there to be a twist but doesn’t actually add anything to the overall story, its arc, the characters or its themes. A lot of them don’t even make sense (see: Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin).

Jean Jacket being the alien and not an object anchors the story and shifts the narrative of the story from “Hey! Look! An alien!” to “Hey, this alien kinda cool, let’s exploit it”.

Therein binds almost all of the film’s subtextual themes, particularly its exploration of erasure, exploitation and fame.


Admittedly, this can come across as one of the weakest themes in the film because the constant tonal shifts can be confusing as to exactly what Peele is trying to say about the erasure of black people in popular media.

There are instances that show that the siblings and their really hot sidekick, Angel, want to use their documentation of Jean Jacket as a way to rewrite black people in popular media.

The opening of the film immediately demarcates this through the proclamation that a 30-second clip of a black man riding a horse was the first person to be captured in a motion picture.

From this, I gathered that the siblings' insistence on documenting Jean Jacket was their way of recentrering black creators to the forefront, through undeniable proof that they were the first people to document the existence of aliens.

However, as the film progresses it’s unclear what the film’s stance on the documentation of Jean Jacket actually is – and, perhaps, that’s the point?


The sort of ambiguous nature of the purity of the siblings' intentions is a direct result of their desire for fame and fortune.

In the first act of the film, it’s established that the sibling’s last remaining parent - who had owned a company that provided Hollywood with horses to use - had died essentially from Jean Jacket vomiting out waste like metal, plastic and rubber.

This put an enormous strain on OJ particularly as he tries to keep his father’s company alive and deal with the economic crisis his death left on his children.

Though they’re not explicitly poor, OJ attempts to sell off his father’s horses to keep things afloat with the intention of buying them back once he figures them out.

However, they would be lucky to even get onto the Bubbling Under Hot 100 with the way things were looking.

So, when the potential for fame and fortune came along once they saw there was a UFO in the sky, taking that opportunity makes sense for their characters and Nope’s overall narrative.

It’s here where pure intentions get muddled and OJ’s desire for fame and fortune overrides his attempts to rewrite history, highlighted by the trio's attempts to rationalise their willingness to risk their lives and the lives of others to exploit their situation and document a very clearly violent entity.


Again, like many instances in the film, the foundation of Nope’s exploration of exploitation is set in the very beginning where they show the aftermath of a very deadly situation that may or may not be suspicious.

This scene eventually unveils itself to be a moment when a chimpanzee used in a TV show went off the rails and attacked and killed multiple cast members during the taping of an episode.

To be honest, the inclusion of the chimp in the overall story is kind of confusing.

What I gathered from it was that the point is to implicitly foreshadow the consequences of trying to tame something meant to exist in the wild – especially for the sake of exploitation.

Initially, Jean Jacket largely leaves the trio alone which OJ boils down to them respecting it and its territory.

However, as the film unfolds, they begin to use this established respect and their knowledge of Jean Jacket against it, leading it to become increasingly aggressive towards them.

Ultimately, Jean Jacket reveals its final form by resembling an animal in the wild flaring up to intimidate its aggressor. Jacket is now on the defensive and scared of the people it once trusted enough to leave unharmed.

Though I don’t think anyone in the trio dies, it does reveal the extent humans will go to manipulate their surroundings to their benefit regardless of who they hurt in the process or what their initial intentions may have been.


If you haven’t noticed, I really liked Nope.

When I first sat down to review the movie, I wanted to do a quick spoiler-free review and call it a day but movies like Nope excite me so much and explicitly show that originality isn’t dead, it’s just evolving.

Nope builds on established tropes, genres, and sub-genres and takes it to a level that’s not only elevated and intentional but is unique in its own right.

It’s also the most cinematic of all of Peele’s movies and that can be seen in its visual aesthetics, sound design, cinematography, and atmosphere.

However, tonal inconsistencies and the inclusion of things that don’t really add up hinder it from being his best work, for me.

Still, Nope is one of the most evocative, interesting and genuinely thrilling original alien films in a very long time.

It has the grandiosity of Us mixed with the smartness and rewatchability of Get Out – run Peele his coins now!

Giving it a strong 8, maybe a light 8.5 if I listen to Alien Superstar by Beyoncé right after.

Nope is available in theatres everywhere.