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George At 

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Every time I hear Tarantino talking about his commitment to only making ten movies as a writer/director, I’m forced to consider who else is making films I look forward to with that kind of anticipation.

The writer/director at the top of the list is Jordan Peele. His latest film NOPE only solidifies my position. On the surface, it’s his most accessible film, but he’s layered the story with so much nuance, excitement, and suspense that the only word for it is ambitious.

We meet OJ Haywood (the reliably great Daniel Kaluuya) and his sister Emerald (a superb Keke Palmer). They’ve taken over the family business as Hollywood film horse trainers after the mysterious death of their father Otis Haywood Sr (Keith David from “The Thing”).

Otis Sr is killed by random objects hurtled out of the clouds in a haunting scene that informs what’s to come. OJ sees his father’s mysterious death as it happens.

OJ is the work horse of the remaining siblings, but Em is undoubtedly the salesperson.

Peele writes excellent dialogue for them both and Kaluuya is powerful in the quieter role, letting Palmer steal every scene she’s in as the motor-mouthed, hard selling, and opinionated Em.

OJ starts to notice that everything isn’t quite what it seems at the ranch.

Financially in danger of losing the property, OJ visits their neighbor and former TV star Ricky “Jupe” Park. We meet Jupe (Steven Yeun of “The Walking Dead”) and glimpse a secret room dedicated to the infamous sitcom he starred in as a child actor. The series focused on a funny chimp, but Peele unveils a very dark history that made the series infamous. Its animal star went wild, violently attacking a young girl in the cast and beating another unconscious.

A tracking shot from that episode opens the film, leaving you wondering what its connection is to flying saucers. Every preview sets NOPE up as a UFO film.

And that it is. An excellent one.

Peele loved Close Encounters and has created a 2022 riff worthy of that film, one of my all-time favorites.

Like Spielberg in the first half of that classic, he gives you glimpses of a flying saucer. A peek here, a quick shot there.

But in 1977, Spielberg also gave you the finale with the mothership coming down over Devil’s Tower and long scenes where you got to look at that ship in wonder.

Peele’s got plenty up his sleeve for his conclusion, no worries.

After a couple of those quick glimpses of a UFO convince OJ that their ticket to money is to capture the ultimate proof of extraterrestrials, he and Em head to Fry’s Electronics and salesman Angel Torres (the hilarious Brandon Perea) comes out to the farm to install a lot of equipment.

After that equipment is in place, Peele unleashes scene after scene that delivers, all building to an unleashed conclusion that kept me on the edge of my seat while making me laugh.

Michael Wincott is perfectly cast as cinematographer Antlers Hoist. Self-important and talented, Hoist sees the ultimate shot of a UFO as his crowning achievement. Watching him go after it is as fun as it is moving. Wincott’s gravelly voice is perfect. You’ve never heard “Purple People Eater” sound quite this menacing.

When he tells Em and OJ, “This dream you’re chasing..where you end up at the top of the’s the one you never wake up from” gave me chills. It’s great writing, perfectly delivered.

Peele’s crew behind the camera is in top form. Michael Abels (US, Get Out) creates a music score that soars for the scenes at Jupe’s Western show and disturbs during the “UFO above the house” sequence in the same way that John Williams score did during Cory’s “abduction from the house” sequence in “Close Encounters”.

The cinematography by Hoyte Van Hoytema (Spectre, Dunkirk, Tenet) is fantastic and the special effects and sound design teams deliver in jaw dropping fashion.

In Dolby Cinema, the entire sequence with the UFO above the ranch house with Em and Angel inside delivered astonishing sounds as liquid, objects and screams poured down around us.

I loved this movie.

There’s so much to unpack.

I won’t do it here because friends I have talked to saw things I didn’t and visa versa. Discover the hidden gems on your own, then let’s discuss.

I’ll throw out a couple thoughts.

What’s up with that single shoe? How is it doing that?

Think about what OJ’s theory is on what they discover and then think about how that ties into Gordy’s tale.

And marvel at how Peele sets up a hell of a show at Jupe’s western ranch. Or as Jupe serves it up: “What if I told you that today you'll leave here different. I'm talking to you. Right here, you are going to witness an absolute spectacle. So what happens next? You ready? ARE YOU READY?”

I wasn’t ready for what Peele served up because he takes what you expect and turns it on his head. He knows you want spectacle just like that audience at Jupe’s arena. But Jupe soon realizes he’s overreached.

Peele hasn’t.

He continues to challenge audiences by making intelligent movies that defy every effort that we make to shove them into a genre. Peele delivers and then piles on layers of context and then delivers again.

While its messages aren’t as easily received as they were in “Get Out”, I credit that to a writer/director improving with each film.

“Get Out” and “Us” were amazing.

So is NOPE. It’s an ambitious blast at the movies.

See it on the biggest screen with the best sound you can find.

Should you see NOPE? YEP, as soon as possible. It gets an A+ and another Peele spot in my all-time Top 100 films.

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