“No”, an impressive effort from a talented director • Current editions


OJ Haywood is a man of few words. He spent his life, under the tutelage of his father, raising horses for Hollywood productions. He and his much more effervescent sister Em provide horses for movies and TV shows. But they also tell the actors how to treat the horses; what they can and cannot do around a horse; how to prevent animals from overreacting to sound and light stimuli. It’s a life. And this is their life. Especially OJ, as he has no desire for an acting career, unlike Em.

After the mysterious death of their father, the Haywood siblings fall on hard times and plan to sell their ranch to Jupe Park, a former child actor who now operates a small western theme park created for the sole purpose of exploiting an incident. infamous in which a startled chimpanzee went into a murderous rage on the set of a 1990s sitcom. Jupe was the sole survivor of the so-called “Gordy’s Home” massacre.

It’s the admittedly odd setup of Jordan Peele’s latest film, “Nope,” in which the sharp young talent steps away from his horror-movie comfort zone to this time dabble in the genre of supernatural science fiction. You see, there’s a strange UFO hovering in the skies west of Los Angeles that thrives on sucking people, animals, and objects into its belly, then blasting them miles away. Of course, the UFO – which the protagonists call “Jean Jacket” – never “performs” in town, but rather in the great void of the desert, where it is difficult to call for help, even less to contact the authorities.

OJ and Em conspire to record a video (“Oprah quality” video, they say) of the creature in action. At first, they install a slew of electronic surveillance equipment from Fry’s Electronics. But when they realize Jean Jacket is only performing his feats after temporarily shutting off all nearby electricity (or “turning off the lights,” if you will), they enlist the services of veteran cinematographer Antlers. Holst, who is filming the procedure with an old hand-cranked camera. . To say more would be to give away too much, but suffice it to say that Peele is another winner. While some felt the ending was too ambiguous, I find the entire film a very satisfying sci-fi mystery, in the same sense that Peele’s last film “Up” was a very satisfying horror thriller.

Unlike some directors (and I’m thinking of you, Mr. Tarantino), Peele stays away from blood and guts, in favor of heightening the level of suspense, à la Alfred Hitchcock. Peele takes us into the realm of the unknown, and every twist ultimately makes sense. Remember the WWII airline pilots who disappeared at the start of Steven Spielberg’s “Encounters of the Third Kind”? That opening scene didn’t seem to have any connection to the rest of the movie until the very end, when it all made sense.

Peele throws several of these cinematic curveballs at us in “No,” and they serve to make the experience richer and deeper. Peele (who also wrote the screenplay) allows us to discover the unknown with his characters, instead of making the viewer a kind of omniscient observer. It brings us closer to the action and involves us, as the layers of the plot are peeled away.

Peele also boasts an excellent cast, including Daniel Kaluuya, who played the lead role in Peele’s debut film, “Get Out.” Keke Palmer (who was a child actress in “Akeelah and the Bee”) plays Em. Steven Yeun is Jupe, and veteran actor Michael Wincott plays Antlers. In what turns out to be a surprisingly strong supporting performance, newcomer Brandon Perea plays Fry’s salesman who supplies the electronic surveillance equipment. His interest in UFOs gives more prominence to his character as the story progresses.

Given that Jean Jacket isn’t eliminated and the main protagonists all survive, “Nope” seems to be ripe for a sequel. I hope Peele doesn’t succumb to the lure of the sequel. Better to let “No” stand on its own merits. It is a powerful and very gripping film.

The topic of debate will inevitably be, what does it all mean? There’s a recurring theme in how we treat animals — from the horses on Haywood Farm to the chimpanzee in the sitcom — that seems to play out in the form of Jean Jacket. It’s almost as if Jean Jacket took the revenge of animals on society. But even that can be overkill. Unlike recent sci-fi movies like “Interstellar” and “Arrival,” I don’t believe Peele’s goal is to make an all-encompassing commentary on humanity. Instead, it’s best to take “No” for what it is – an eminently engaging sci-fi mystery that leaves us contemplating and discussing for weeks after our initial viewing. It’s a major effort from a talented young writer and director.

“No” has screened at Landmark, UA, IMAX, Living Room Theatres, Tibbs Drive-In, Cinemark, Regal, Studio Movie Grill, AMC, Flix Brewhouse, Showtime and Legacy.


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