Nope ★★★½

Having gotten the biggest budget of his entire career, it makes sense that Jordan Peele would choose to emulate the greatest blockbuster of all time: Jaws. And because Peele is better than almost any American genre filmmaker working today, that ambition feels admirable as opposed to foolish. So perhaps it’s only a mild disappointment that while Nope obviously doesn’t reach the heights of Spielberg’s masterpiece, it doesn’t quite manage to match the thrills of Peele’s first two movies either. 

Nope features the most straightforward premise of any of Peele’s movies, and yet it ironically feels the most disjointed of his filmography so far. Daniel Kaluuya is atypically asleep at the wheel here, and intriguing supporting characters played by such wonderful actors as Steven Yeun and Michael Wincott (so good to hear that gravely voice again!) feel underserved. Like Jaws, the final act also features our antagonist in extensive warts-and-all special effects shots, and in this instance the underwhelming effects really sap some of the wonder audiences should be feeling during the movie’s climax.

Still, there’s no denying Peele is just a hell of a director. There’s a midpoint set piece involving a certain kind of “rain” that’s scarier than anything A24 has drummed up in any of their more self-serious offerings in the past 5 years, and the cinematography captures the enormity of the vast California gulches on par with some of your favorite Westerns. If this review sounds overly negative for 3.5 stars, it’s simply because Peele has made another movie that flirts so consistently with greatness, only to wind up as Very Good. Which nonetheless makes it better than almost anything else playing in theaters right now.

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