Thursday 3 February 2022

REVIEW: Nightmare Alley (2021) Starring Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Rooney Mara, Ron Perlman, David Strathairn

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Review By Jon Donnis
Guillermo del Toro is back with Nightmare Alley, a film that is sure to get plenty of awards. Based on a 1946 novel by William Lindsay Gresham of the same name, stars Bradley Cooper as Stanton Carlisle, we first get introduced to Stanton as he is burning down his family home, and escaping whatever life he previously had. He visits a travelling carnival, and upon watching a few shows, he manages to convince the boss to give him work. He soon befriends Zeena the Seer played by the excellent Toni Collette, a fake psychic/clairvoyant. Early on in the film we get to see the secrets behind some classic psychic trickery, including a famous mentalism trick where by a code is used between two people to give the illusion of transmitting information psychically. She performs this trick with her husband Pete (David Strathairn), in front of Stanton, and just as it seems he is being convinced, they reveal how it is done. If you have any interest in the secrets of psychics and mediums, I advise you to check out, the world's leading site on exposing such things.

Stanton eventually asks Pete to teach him all the tricks of the trade, and we then get the birth of "Master Stanton", with his new assistant Molly played by the lovely Rooney Mara.

What follows is a fascinating and very high-quality film, whereas usually the monsters of Guillermo del Toro films are creepy and horrifying, the monsters in Nightmare Alley are very much the psychological evils of the people involved.

We get to see some classic freak show acts, some real, some not so real, the viewer is drawn in to the story of the "geek", a seemingly feral creature that eats chickens alive, is kept in a cage, and tortured. As the truth comes out, we can only imagine these real-life horrors that happened in the heyday of the freakshow carnivals.

The film ends in a way that only Guillermo del Toro can really get away with, I shall say no more on that.

The Good
High quality of acting and filmmaking. This will get awards across the board, and is definitely a film you should want to see. A very good story that will captivate you.

The Bad
At around 2 hours and 20 minutes, this is a long film, and because it is story heavy, it can feel a little slow at times. 

I really enjoyed Nightmare Alley, and I highly recommend it.
I score Nightmare Alley a solid 9/10

Out Now in Cinemas and Hulu in the UK

Directed by Guillermo del Toro.

Starring Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Rooney Mara, Ron Perlman, David Strathairn, Holt McCallany, Mark Povinelli, Jim Beaver, Romina Power, Paul Anderson, Clifton Collins Jr., David Hewlett, Lara Jean Chorostecki, Drew Nelson, Troy James, Dian Bachar, Linden Porco, and Tim Blake Nelson.