“No” (Science-Fiction/Mystery/Horror: 2 hours, 10 minutes)
With: Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Brandon Perea, Michael Wincott and Steven Yeun
Director: Jordan Peele
Rated: R (profanity, violence and bloody images)
Film Review: Director-screenwriter Jordan Peele gave audiences the apt ‘Get Out’ (2017), which starred the ever-effective Daniel Kaluuya. He followed that film with the engaging “We” (2019). With “No”, he creates an otherworldly sense of awe while continuing his trend of drawing attention to mystery/horrors that appeal to audiences.
“Nope” follows the work of siblings Otis “OJ” Haywood (Kaluuya) and Emerald Haywood (Palmer). They are the owners of Haywood Hollywood Horses. They form standards for various media. As the Haywoods work on their ranch, strange things happen in their remote California town. They see and hear strange currencies that they cannot explain.
With the help of technician Angel Torres (Perea) and cinematographer Antlers Holst (Wincott), OJ and Emerald set out to record the unidentified aerial phenomena to create their “Oprah moment,” Emerald says.
In the film, Emerald, an energetic Keke Palmer, jokes, “But that’s why at Haywood Ranch, as the only black-owned horse trainers in Hollywood, we like to say from the time the pictures could move, we had skin in the game.” She says this to a mostly white sound stage crew while trying to sell them using Haywood Horses. The moment is humorous, but the scene is an impressive nerd comedy that a response is delayed by the characters in the scene and the movie audience.
Jordan Peele has proven he doesn’t mind injecting race and intellect into his films. His screenplays feature black actors as protagonists. Peele did it successfully and he did it with a brilliant sense of professionalism that scores with a multiracial audience. With this, he also does not mute his films. He realizes that not all moviegoers absorb information and visuals in the same way.
The first film Emerald mentions in “Nope” is “The Horse in Motion” (June 1878). This is Chronophotography, a series of cabinet cards by Eadweard Muybridge. It’s debatable if this is the first film. The “Passage of Venus” (December 9, 1974) directed by PJC Janssen, from photos allegedly taken in Japan by French astronomer Jules Janssen and Brazilian engineer Francisco Antônio de Almeida, debuted first.
However, “The Horse in Motion” makes a better story. Peele uses this short to indicate that an African American man served as the film’s first performer. This is notable given that the Haywoods insist the man was one of the great-grandfathers, and the cameras are what the main characters need to check out what’s going on in their quaint community.
Peele uses numerous scenes and a pivotal sub-story involving “Walking Dead” Steven Yeun as Ricky “Jupe” Park, a carnival operator to create foreshadowing. Peele’s attention to detail is astute. Its prefiguration is comparable to esoteric knowledge. The actions and words of the characters as well as several elements of his film have some meaning, even if they are only detectable for a few seconds. The clutter seems overly complicated at times, but Peele manages to stay in control for making entertaining movies.
“No” borders on science fiction as well as the mystery and horror genres. Peele creates engaging visuals that convey a sense of 1980s awe with a storyline reminiscent of the era of Alfred Hitchcock TV shows. He also adds mystery to his M. Night Shyamalan-like films (“The Sixth Sense”, 1999).
Peele’s scripts contain enough information to fill a season of episodes of a television series. Even with a busy script, Peele creates films that cannot be avoided watching and “No” is another entry for his already impressive resume.
Grade: B (No, you cannot avoid this film.)
Play in the stadiums of the Valdosta cinema.
Adann-Kennn Alexxandar reviewed films for over 20 years for the Valdosta Daily Times.