Written and Directed by Jordan Peele
Starring Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun, Brandon Perea, Michael Wincott, Wrenn Schmidt, Keith David, Donna Mills, Barbie Ferreira

Jordan Peele is as good as anyone when it comes to setting up the tension. He takes his time. He moves from place to place. You may not know where he is going right off, but you know you will enjoy how uncomfortable he make you. By the time the second trailer for Nope was released, it felt like the studio may have given away too much. Fortunately, there is much more going on than what it shows. Good Lord, but he knows how to build tension.

The story involves the Hollywood Haywood Ranch, which trains and supplies horses for work in the film industry. The ranch is in a steady decline since the loss of the head of the family, Otis Sr. (David). Otis Jr. (Kaluuya) is soldiering on though. He is helped occasionally by his sister Em (Palmer), but they both know the score.

The ranch is neighbored by a pseudo amusment park run by a former child actor named Jupe (Yeun). He was a rising star until a freak event on the set of one of his new shows put him in a state of denial about his PTSD from the event. He’s doing well enough, he puts in an offer on the Haywood Ranch. O.J. (as he is known) is refusing to sell. It feels like a matter of time.

Something about the way his father dies doesn’t sit well with the rancher. The story that everyone accepts is not one that he can believe. He will find out soon enough.

If it was just the actors Peele chose, the movie would still be a winner. Kaluuya is a force. He has the ability to show processing thought like Paul Newman or Robert Duvall. There are no gimmicks. The viewer is right there, knowing he’s going to come up with something not even considered. He is one of the best new actors (along with LaKeith Stanfield) that has come along in the last decade.

Keke Palmer provides an undeniable sibling chemistry as a foil for Kaluuya’s inward dimension. She is loud, but she’s smart. Together they come up with an idea I don’t think any two geniuses could derive out of the information they glean from their experiences.

Perea, as a Fry’s employee who takes a bit too much interest in his customers is an excellent fresh face. His previous experience in the great, unheralded Netflix series The OA allows him to sink into a role that could have been a throwaway and make it nearly as memorable as either of the two leads.

Yeun’s performance, which has a very specific purpose, works deftly as a plot device. His character is one of many that the viewer is allowed to learn about what they are going to encounter.

Which brings us back to Peele. His work in developing the tension for this film works as a methodical march into the inevitable. In this case, as with most of his films, that inevitability is almost undescribable. His camera angles are always on the tip of giving the viewer what they want, but he never caves in and allows us the easy win. We’re going to earn it: the hard way.

Peele’s scriptwriting is another treat. He knows how to show things as they are without burdening the viewer with a political viewpoint. We see people going through events. Some of them fair, some of them not so much. We are not bludgeoned with opinion. It’s up to us to decide what were seeing and how it fits in the reality he’s presented.

If he’s not the best film maker alive, Peele is certainly going to get marks for consistency. Through three wholly original stories he’s been in charge of the viewer quite unlike any director I can think of outside of perhaps Christopher Nolan. Peele has the whole world in his hands, and it is up to him and his precisely articulate and interesting vision how we are allowed to view it.

Watching Peele work is like a delightful form of being a hostage. We are feel the torment, the fear and even the delight and are thankful for nearly every moment.

There are a few questionable character decisions, especially one where a camera man goes for that perfect shot. Overall the experience is one that is precious and will be cherished.

(****1/2 out of *****)

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