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At least this much can be said about NOPE: When it comes to the suspense-heavy and cryptic alien attack on a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere movies, it's better than Signs.
Writer-director Jordan Peele made a name for himself as one of the only, or perhaps the only, filmmaker in contemporary cinema whose marquee name is enough to put butts in seats.
His signature tone of elevated horror works as impeccably constructed and paced straight genre exercises mixed with Rod Serling-esque explorations of dense and complex social issues.
Unlike zeitgeist setting masterworks like Get Out and Us, which gave distinct and unique commentary on race relations and the class system, NOPE is content with just being a thrilling, terrifying, and ultimately fun-filled 1950s B-movie style alien attack flick.
There are some themes floating underneath the surface here and there, about man's hubris when it comes to animals and forces of nature they can't understand, as well as the narcissism of the social media era, but Peele's main goal this time around is to splice together as many scares and thrills as possible until the credits roll, and there's certainly nothing wrong with that.
The plot that's already revealed in the marketing materials, about a brother and sister team (Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer, whose natural energy steals the show) who are driven to get the first clear photographic evidence of an alien presence when they witness one near their eponymous farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, is ripe for a fun 1980s Spielberg-produced-family-tentpole-style plucky adventure within an R-rated and suspense-filled horror about a series of alien abductions that become increasingly bloody.
Peele's previous films transferred his natural touch for comedy, brought on by his past as a sketch comedy writer and performer, as a welcome release from his tense sequences. In the case of NOPE, he allows pretty much equal space for his humor and his horror, creating more of a fun adventure with a dark and brooding undertone.
Not every narrative element introduced in the fairly overlong two hours and fifteen minutes is essential to the bigger picture (Every single scene in a backstory subplot about a chimpanzee going ape is terrific, but its connection to the main plot is slim at best, and perhaps only thematically meant to click), but it's hard to deny the Hitchcock-style showmanship of tension and release in every one of them.
It's interesting that NOPE has a much more streamlined and simple premise than the high concept Get Out and Us, yet has the longest runtime. Some trimming could have helped it maintain a tighter pace that focused on the refreshing simplicity of its premise.
I don't think NOPE will capture a certain social zeitgeist like Peele's other work, but it's a gripping and fun time at the movies and should be enjoyed at the movies, as a communal experience. It's not as masterful as his first two films, but Peele is still a powerhouse with a unique vision.
Oktay Ege Kozak is a film critic and screenwriter based in Portland, Oregon. He also writes for The Playlist, The Oregon Herald, and Beyazperde.com