(director/writer: Jordan Peele; cinematographer: Hoyte Van Hoytema; editor: Nicholas Monsour; music: Michael Abels; cast: Daniel Kaluuya (OJ Haywood), Keke Palmer (Emerald Haywood), Steven Yeun (Ricky “Jupe” Park), Micael Wincott (Antlers Holst), Brandon Perea (Angel Torres), Jennifer Lafleur (Phyllis Mayberry, Margaret Houston), Devon Gaye (Ryder Muybridge), Keith David (Otis Haywood Sr.), Ryan W. Garcia (Sheriff Reyes), Donna Mills (Bonnie Clayton), Wren Schmidt (Amber Park), Barbie Ferreira (Nessie); Runtime: 135; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Jordan Peele, Ian Cooper; Universal Pictures; 2022)
“More stylish than substantial.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The title for this alien invasion flick is an acronym of “Not Of Planet Earth.” It’s close in theme to “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”
Director/writer Jordan Peele (“Us”/”Get Out”) makes his self-discovery film more of a sci-fi film than a horror, more stylish than substantial, and gives added weight to the retro technology that paved the way for the modern world technology.
The laconic OJ Haywood (Daniel Kaluuya) and his loquacious sister Emerald (Kiki Palmer) run a family-owned business of horse suppliers and trainers for TV and Hollywood. They are the only Blacks in the business. Their business has slowed since the mysterious death of their father (Keith David), who was struck by debris falling from the sky while riding his horse.
When sighting an ominous disc-shaped UFO hiding in the clouds on their remote Southern California ranch, in the Santa Clarita Valley, that’s making the horses jumpy, the siblings get the help of an electronics store techie (Brandon Perea) to film it on surveillance-cam and also get the legendary documentary cinematographer (Michael Wincott) involved. They plan to sell the photo to a nearby Western theme park owned by the nerdy former child actor, Ricky “Jupe” Park (Steven Yuen), who plans to make a fortune displaying the UFO photo at the theme park.
At the theme park, one day there is the unexplained mysterious disappearance of the entire audience, with the possibility raised that they were abducted by aliens.
The story is subtle, diverting, creepy and unsettling, as it raises questions why the aliens have come here and what do they want. But it only titillates us by not providing answers. In the end it takes us nowhere we haven’t already been before, with characters and plot-lines that are not fully developed. Though it sets an intriguing weird atmosphere and raises knotty questions, it’s saddled with too many sequences that go on for too long while emotionally vapid.
It seems to work best as a visual treat and as possibly a message film, even if strangely conceived. It warns us to watch out how we take care of the environment, the animals and all our people, or else our divided country might be cursed and destroyed like those evil places in the OT.
REVIEWED ON 9/7/2022 GRADE: B-