In an article in Livescience, Brandon Specktor reports that there were several hundred reported UFO sightings in 2022. Unidentified flying objects, or unidentified aerial phenomenon, as the government calls them, have been taken more seriously by U.S. officials in recent years, starting in 2007 with a small, secretly funded program that investigated reports of military encounters. The goal of this task force was to explore sightings of strange objects in the sky that could potentially pose a threat to national security. Our fascination with UFOs makes the premise behind this film – that people will take all kinds of risks to prove they exist – totally believable.
Writer and director Jordan Peele starts this UFO-thriller with a quotation from the Old Testament Book of Naham, where God threatens to wreak havoc on the wicked city of Nineveh in 612 BC: “I will make a spectacle of you.” Peele seems to be implying that things have not improved much in this crazy, violent, and cruel world.
As the film opens, we swoop down to a ranch in a remote California area that supplies horses for television and movies. The place is run by Emerald (Keke Palmer) and her brother OJ (Daniel Kaluuya). When debris starts falling from the sky, their father is killed, and their horses are spooked, they realize that something strange is going on. OJ concludes that the unmoving cloud above the ranch is covering up an extraterrestrial vehicle. Emerald’s response is that they must photograph it to prove the presence of aliens. To get an “Oprah shot” that will bring them a fortune, they are joined by an electronics-store employee (Brandon Perea) and a documentary cinematographer (Michael Wincott). Meanwhile, the owner of a nearby theme park (Steven Yeun) figures that if he can get the aliens to make an appearance, his audiences will soar.
The alien in Nope is a violent and hungry creature who devours horses, the audience at a show, and anything else in its path. The people trying to capture it on film want to profit from its presence. But this is an angry being, and it does not seem to be a good choice for commercial exploitation. Perhaps, Peele seems to be saying, animals resent what we are doing to them!
Peele hints at but does not provide answers to some obvious questions. Why would aliens come to Earth and what for? Why does this alien choose to show up of all places at a ranch owned by Blacks whose horses work in western Hollywood movies? Can it be safely confronted or courted? Are we dealing with horror or wonder? What does it symbolize? Most of the fun of this action-packed horror flick is trying to figure those questions out.