Film Review – Nightmare Alley (2021)

Title – Nightmare Alley (2021)

Director – Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy)

Cast – Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Ron Perlman, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins 

Plot – Troubled by his past, new carny Stanton Carlisle (Cooper) discovers a knack for manipulation and takes his new found skill on the road with his partner Molly (Mara) in the war threatened surrounds of 1930’s/40’s America. But will Stanton’s ambitions lead to glory or his downfall? 

“Is it a beast, or is it a man?”

Review by Eddie on 21/01/2022

His first feature film since his 2017 Oscar winning triumph The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro’s adaptation of both William Lindsay Gresham’s novel and the 1947 film of the same name is one of 2021’s most aesthetically pleasing big budget releases, one that wears its noir mystery tropes like a badge of honor as we explore the life and times of Bradley Cooper’s ambitious carny turned mental manipulator Stan Carlisle. 

A stunning feat of feature film production, from the grimy yet alluring carnival of freaks and geeks Stan finds himself amongst, the lavish offices of Cate Blanchett’s psychologist Dr. Lilith Ritter through to Luis Sequeira’s eye-catching costume’s, Alley utilizes every cent of its not to be sneezed at $60 million dollar budget as del Toro spares no expense on his slow burning tale of a man who longs for greatness and riches but fails to heed to the warning signs on his way to reaching his goals. 

Split into two distinct parts, Stan’s journey of self discovery as part of Ron Perlman’s Bruno’s carnival where he meets Rooney Mara’s future lover and business partner Molly and learns the dangerous art of manipulation from Toni Collette and David Strathairn’s long term con-artists and then a second part that follows Stan and Molly’s ventures away from the carnival where they come across Blanchett’s mysterious Dr. Ritter, Alley is arguably del Toro’s most restrained and considered feature yet, one that is more than content in letting things take their time on their way to bone crunching and visceral finale that reminds us all del Toro is one of the current kings of claret spilling. 

At the heart of this tale of losing oneself to a quest of fame and fortune at the cost of everything else is what could well be Bradley Cooper’s most impressive lead performance yet, a performance that manages to balance the well-liked actor’s natural charisma and smarts with a vulnerability and sadness that culminates in one of the most memorable final scenes and individual acting pieces of recent memory. 

While the likes of Blanchett, Richard Jenkins, Collette and a scene-stealing Willem Dafoe (alongside his little friend Enoch) all deliver for del Toro, his leading man takes a brunt of the films scenes on his shoulders and his a stoic and often mesmerizing presence through the films journey as we struggle to try and ascertain just what type of man Stan really is and how far he is willing to go to reach the goals he has set himself, all the while holding off the inevitable that appears determined to come his way. 

When weighed up alongside del Toro’s Oscar winning heavyweight The Shape of Water, I would personally say Alley is the better film of the two, whilst not perfect, its full of stunning craftsmanship, mysterious storytelling and noteworthy acting turns, making it one of del Toro’s most polished works yet and easily one of the best examples of the noir genre to come out of Hollywood in some time. 

Final Say – 

An unfortunate box office disaster that thought it wise to go head to head with the latest Spider-Man movie at the box office booths, Nightmare Alley is a slow but memorable noir trip from Guillermo del Toro and his leading man Bradley Cooper that is sure to find a loving audience in the years to come. 

4 geeks out of 5   

6 responses to “Film Review – Nightmare Alley (2021)

  1. Pingback: 2022 Oscar Predictions | Jordan and Eddie (The Movie Guys)·

  2. I watched this movie after you reviewed it 🙂

    I really liked it but honestly the two things I remember the most are:
    1. The partial light which is on Cate Blanchett’s face everytime she is in frame.
    2. I am almost sure of this but as the movie goes on, Bradley Cooper no longer sees himself in the mirrors. There are heaps of shots in the beginning where we see Bradley’s face in the mirror but by the end, zero.

    • It’s such an beautiful movie this one, amazing sets, costumes and production design. One thing that has really stuck with me from this film is that last 5 or so minutes, Cooper was quite amazing in those scenes.

  3. Pingback: The Best and Worst Films of 2022 | Jordan and Eddie (The Movie Guys)·

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