Nightmare Alley is a stylish and beautifully directed neo-noir by Guillermo del Toro. I think the bar has been set very high by del Toro now when you look at movies like Pan’s Labyrinth and The Shape of Water. So to say I had high expectations is an understatement. It may not have quite reached what I was expecting but it’s still a terrific crime/thriller.
Stanton Carlisle (Bradley Cooper) is a scammer and a hustler, when he joins a carnival to earn a bit of money he discovers the secrets behind manipulating people and the tricks of mentalism. For the first time in his life he’s finally good at something but not just good, the best. This opens doors for him that he previously never dreamt possible. His life takes a different turn when he meets Dr. Lilith Ritter (Cate Blanchett), a psychiatrist who may be even more dangerous than he is.
The set design, the cinematography, and the soundtrack all work brilliantly to immerse you in this dark thriller. I can’t get over how good Bradley Cooper is in Nightmare Alley, he seems to get better with every new movie he’s in. A brilliant performance, it’s hard to imagine anyone else take on that role. I don’t think Guillermo del Toro has ever made a misstep in choosing a cast for his movies and Nightmare Alley is no exception. My only real issue was how dragged out the story was, particularly in the first half. I feel it could have been condensed a little bit, although I may have felt this way because of the 4D experience my local cinema appeared to be offering. Whenever it snowed in Nightmare Alley I was starting to feel as cold as the characters, so perhaps that didn’t help. Aside from that, the story is what you’d expect from del Toro. Intriguing and very dark with a thrilling third act. We don’t see enough neo-noir thrillers anymore, so anyone looking for something dark and mysterious for your weekly cinema trip need look no further.
Nightmare Alley may not be quite up there with Crimson Peak, Pan’s Labyrinth or The Shape of Water but it’s a great movie and so dark in all the right places. Highly recommended for all the Guillermo del Toro fans.