How Jordan Peele’s “NOPE” Gives Social Commentary on Spectacle

Spoilers for “NOPE” Ahead!

Over the course of the last few years, director Jordan Peele, has come out with two original ideas for horror movies. Get Out, and Us. Both being critically acclaimed and praised by millions for being new innovations for the horror genre. His newest film, “NOPE” is no different than the other two and is an amazing addition to his filmography. 

          A lot of people say NOPE feels like “Jaws” in a sense of the creature’s ambiguity up until the second act of the movie. And I don’t think that’s too far off. The “alien” in this movie is an amazing antagonist for this movie. It’s not a murderer with a dark backstory, or a ghost, or anything in that nature. It is just an animal, eating to survive. And I think that simplicity is gone in today’s horror landscape. I think that simplicity is also why its design is the iconic UFO shape popularized by old alien movies. The acting in this movie is also impressive with not a single weak link in the cast. The standout obviously being Keke Palmer, who plays her role amazingly. But also Daniel Kaluuya as OJ Haywood. Daniel plays a traumatized son very well with his little mannerisms like not looking up during the commercial shoot because that’s how he lost his dad. He also acts the most realistically when faced with a life or death situation. His performance is one to be remembered and looked back on when learning how to correctly play a horror protagonist. 

          A lot of people call the movie more of a thriller than a horror movie and although yes, most of the movie does not have your typical horror movie slasher tropes, I think it is still terrifying. One scene in particular shows off Peele’s horror writing better than anything he has ever done before. That of course being the “Star Lasso Experience” scene. I did not have a fear of claustrophobia until I watched this scene. For people who haven’t watched the movie and do not care about spoilers, this scene depicts a crowd of people being eaten alive by the creature. The camera shows the inside of its stomach, making you feel like you are in the beast with the rest of them. Children screaming and yelling about how much it burns because they are being digested alive, as well as calling for their parents to help. This scene is highly disturbing and to me shows how much Peele has evolved as a horror director. 

          Another thing this movie does incredibly well is its cinematography. This movie has beautiful shots and always had my eyes glued to the screen. Making even the most boring settings like a hardware store look interesting. Hoyte van Hoytema, the cinematographer for NOPE, has done amazing works like Interstellar, Dunkirk, and Tenet just to name a few. But in my opinion, this is one of his best pieces. This movie really is one of the best movies this decade has had to give and I am growing more and more excited for Jordan Peele’s next big movie. I could talk about how much I adore this movie but this review isn’t about that. It is about the movie’s inner meaning. So let’s go back to the beginning of the movie and talk about some of the deeper meanings this movie has to offer.

          The movie opens with a small chimp beating what appears to be a woman on the set of a TV show or movie. A child is hiding behind a cloth beneath a table. However, he is not looking at the girl being murdered, he is focused on something else. A clear shot of a girl’s shoe, standing perfectly upright, amidst the chaos around it. That’s what he is looking at, almost fixating on it instead of what is going on around him. This shoe is an example of a bad miracle. Something that would be a spectacle on its own, but is overshadowed by tragedy. This kid would grow up and make an entire museum around this tragic event and overcharge it to make a profit. This character is a depiction of society. Doing anything we can to commercialize disasters and anything bad. Because that is what people want to see. A murder will get more views than a kitten being saved from a tree because that is what people want to see. He saw the events of Gordy’s Home as a chance to make money and he took it. Another key example of this is the Star Lasso Experience where the same kid grows up to run and host. Profiting off of something as dangerous as an alien species. Which eventually leads to his own death. 

          Towards the end of the movie, a TMZ reporter is on a motorcycle trying to film the alien that has been rumored to be around the desert. The man is putting his life at risk for the shot of an alien. Is it also a coincidence that the helmet he is wearing is a literal reflection of the viewers? This character is also a depiction of someone who doesn’t know when to stop even if their life is on the line. Even the main characters OJ and Haywood are guilty of this.. The movie has a cinematographer that is the most blatant example in the movie, literally getting himself killed for the “impossible shot.”

          NOPE says a lot about how our society and how tragedies make more headlines than good acts. Leading right back to the opening quote at the beginning of the film. 

“I will cast abominable filth upon you, make you vile, and make you a spectacle.”