Jordan Peele’s ‘Nope’ Is a Deeply Layered Sci-Fi Masterpiece

An ominous cloud, a black horse and random pieces of debris floating in mid-air.

That imagery was more than enough to get fans buzzing about Jordan Peele’s highly-anticipated sci-fi horror film, Nope—and for good reason. With his past box office hits, Get Out and Us, the writer and director garnered a reputation for expertly weaving timely themes and powerful symbols into his work. So, it comes as no surprise that his latest title is just as complex as it is bizarre.

The new film, which premieres today, stars Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer as siblings OJ and Emerald Haywood, who own a horse ranch that often works with Hollywood production teams for films. After their father suddenly dies from a random object that falls from the sky, they learn that a deadly UFO has been lingering in the clouds above their ranch. Desperate to capture it on camera, they devise a plan, but things quickly go south.

The plot seems straightforward enough, but it's also laden with metaphors and timely commentary about the link between power and attention. For instance, one scene involves former child star Ricky Park (Steven Yeun) as he tries to unveil the UFO to his audience of spectators. This points to our culture's growing obsession with entertainment and the unknown—thanks in part to the recent pandemic—and how letting these things distract us can lead to dire consequences. It's also no accident that this mysterious alien has a penchant for horses, which are known to signify power, independence and freedom.

Universal Pictures

Another key theme is racism in America. All throughout the film, as OJ and Emerald desperately fight to get this alien creature on camera, it serves as a reminder of how most people of color feel when they experience racism—or rather, a subtle enemy that they constantly feel the need to prove is real. Then of course, there's the memorable opening scene, where Emerald schools a white production staff member about the legendary Black jockey who appeared in one of the first motion pictures ever made. At this point, one can't help but think about the erasure of influential Black men and women throughout history.

While Peele doesn't shy away from timely topics, it's worth noting that the tone of this film is lighter and, dare I say, fun, compared to his first two films, thanks in part to Palmer's impeccable comedic timing and, of course, an occasional reference to the film's very relatable title. Though Palmer shines as OJ's outspoken little sister and she delivers some funny one-liners, the most amusing (and satisfying) moments are when the characters utter that simple word, "Nope," and run in the opposite direction when confronted with the terrifying UFO. In fact, in one standout scene, OJ drives back home and tries to get out of his car, but when he realizes that the creature is hovering right above him, he instantly closes the door without thinking twice and says, "Nope."

nope movie review
Universal Pictures

So, does this movie hold up as a sci-fi alien film? Absolutely. And the best part? You can still enjoy it if you don't feel like over-analyzing every metaphor and potential easter egg. The writing is smart, the special effects are phenomenal and the performances are solid all around. But if you can't resist trying to peel back all the layers, then Nope will definitely keep you busy long after the credits roll.

nope movie review jordan peele
Universal Pictures

Purewow Rating: 4.5 Out Of 5 Stars

It's not quite as dark or unnerving as Get Out or Us, but there's a lot of symbolism to unpack in Peele's layered Nope—so much so that it might warrant a second watch. With stellar performances, great storytelling and thought-provoking themes, this film won't disappoint.

For a full breakdown of PureWow's entertainment rating system, click here.

Want more TV reviews sent to your inbox? Subscribe here.

nakeisha campbell bio

Associate Editor, News and Entertainment

Nakeisha has been interviewing celebrities and covering all things entertainment for over 8 years, but she has also written on a wide range of topics, like career...