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Home > Written Reviews, Written Reviews > “Nightmare Alley” a Crime Thriller

“Nightmare Alley” a Crime Thriller

 

 

 

Review by John Delia

What puts Nightmare Alley over the top is the excellent blend of acting, directing and cinematography. The storyline is morbid and sometimes terrifying as it weaves startling twists throughout the two and a half hours. That said, the element of predictability does creep in, but even though it still remains high as one of the best films for 2021.

Willem Dafoe and Bradley Cooper in the film NIGHTMARE ALLEY. Photo by Kerry Hayes. © 2021 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved

We find Stanton Carlisle (Bradley Cooper) burning his past behind him before winding up at a Carnival in the 1940’s. No way to return to his past, he joins the traveling freak show settling in with Zeena (Toni Collette) a well know fortune teller. Her nearly demented husband (David Strathairn), a long time psychic entertainer, takes Stanton under his wing using his charisma to pull unsuspecting audience members into believing Zeena is for real.

After some time on the road, Stanton forms a romantic bond with side-show “Electra” Molly (Rooney Mara) that leads to some bad decisions. Director and writer of the screenplay Guillermo del Toro puts his brand on the film making it one of his numerous wicked tales. He moves the film along like a three part miniseries that one would commonly binge on these days, but it works perfectly for the two and a half hour show.

Ron Perlman and Mark Povinelli in the film NIGHTMARE ALLEY. Photo by Kerry Hayes. © 2021 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved

This may be the film for which Bradley Cooper finally gets the gold statue; having missed his chances with A Star Is Born, American Sniper and Silver Linings Playbook. Here he commands the screen in every scene with a superb depiction of Stanton, the con artist from hell. He’s a diabolical, no conscience charlatan that will stop at nothing to feed his ego and pockets. I like this character and Cooper nails the role.

If there was an Oscar for Best Ensemble Cast, Nightmare Alley would take it hands down. Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Rooney Mara, Richard Jenkins, Ron Perlman, Mary Steenburgen, David Strathairn, Tim Blake Nelson and others are all outstanding in their roles. Each role is critical to the plot and this cast makes the film work.

Bradley Cooper in the film NIGHTMARE ALLEY. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2021 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved

The cinematography, sets, and costuming brings the 1940’s to the screen in all its grim glory. It depicts the rag tag carnival struggling to keep afloat, hobnobbing at the rich upper-class parties, ridding cattle cars with hobos, all while on the edge of World War II. It’s a cornucopia of the struggling lower-class during an age of a wide separation breakaway of the well to do.

Nightmare Alley had been rated R for strong/bloody violence, some sexual content, nudity and language. The film gets 5 out of 5 Stars and lands in my top ten for 2021.

Bradley Cooper and Rooney Mara in the film NIGHTMARE ALLEY. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2021 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved

Additional Film Information:
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Rooney Mara, Richard Jenkins, Ron Perlman, Mary Steenburgen, David Strathairn, Tim Blake Nelson
Directed and screenplay written by: Guillermo del Toro
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
MPAA Rating: R for strong/bloody violence, some sexual content, nudity and language
Running Time: 2 hrs. 30 min.
Opening Date: December 17, 2021
Distributed by: Searchlight Pictures
Released in: Theaters

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