SMART MOVIE REVIEW: Say yes to ‘NOPE’ at the B&B Theater

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, August 3, 2022

By Ian Omar Smart | Guest Columnist

Now playing at the B&B Theater in the Vicksburg Mall, Jordan Peele returns to the big screen with his most expansive and thematically dense film to date — and it absolutely rules.

Peele pushes the big old-school blockbuster filmmaking that would be at home in the best blockbusters of the 1980s. If “Get Out” was a modernization of paranoid 70s exploitation horror films, and “US” was an amalgamation of the best 80s video-store schlock and cosmic horror, then “NOPE” feels like he’s drawing from the scope, scale and scares of the 80s Amblin era.

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“NOPE” begins with a freak occurrence where O.J. (Daniel Kaluuya) watches his father die in front of him. This leads to O.J. and his sister Emerald (played wonderfully by Keke Palmer) attempting to keep their business as film-set horse wranglers afloat.

One night after a botched shoot, O.J. notices something in the sky, “Too fast. Too quiet to be a plane.”

This leads to a series of misadventures where O.J. and Emerald (with the help of some colorful characters) attempt to capture footage of this UFO and sell it before word gets out.

Like his previous work, Peele reassembles his influences into this large tableau that’s equal amounts of nightmare visuals and swashbuckling romp. He pulls back the direct political messaging and focuses on character relationships and history.

This film’s thematic resonance emerges through his use of images; highlighting Black cowboys in shots we associate with classic westerns or presenting the empty lives of floundering child stars years after their cinematic prime.

Peele even weaves several disparate story threads, all different but under a single umbrella, into this rich tapestry that celebrates the efforts of filmmaking while shaming the nature of how the business exploits some and forgets them to history.

An unspoken theme that clicked with me is the way people are the results of individuals and choices that came before. O.J. and Emerald are so obviously their father’s children; O.J. with his intuitive knowledge of animals and Emerald with her showmanship. Beyond one’s lineage, the film does so much to communicate how all the characters are the result of their perspectives, biases and upbringing.

The first ever motion picture was of a Black man on a horse. O.J. and Emerald feel a kinship to that and ownership of that legacy regarding their place in motion pictures. That history matters, and it’s what drives them and everyone else in this film, even the UFO.

This is a wonderful movie that deserves to be rewatched and dissected as thoroughly as possible. See it on the biggest screen you can to get the full effect of its thrills and chills. “NOPE” is easily one of the best movies of this year.

Ian Omar Smart is a graduate of Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University with a degree in architecture. When he’s not drawing buildings, he’s probably at the movies. Smart can be contacted at isiansmart@gmail.com.