Film Review: From The Carnival To The Con

Nightmare Alley (2021) - IMDb

Nightmare Alley is a thriller directed by Guillermo del Toro and is a remake of a 1947 film. Del Toro also co-wrote this screenplay with Kim Morgan. It is based on a novel written in 1946 by William Lindsay Gresham. There is an impressive cast that stars Bradley Cooper as Stanton Carlisle and includes Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Ron Perlman, Willem Dafoe, and Richard Jenkins.

The film takes place in the 1940’s, which I appreciate since a lot of remakes are adjusted for the present day. The audience starts off seeing Carlisle hauling something into a hole in the floorboards of a dilapidated house in the country and setting the whole thing alight. He wanders into a carnival and gets a job helping out the psychic. A mentalist dies under some suspicious circumstances. Carlisle then runs off with a pretty girl and ends up in New York working as a mentalist, fleecing the wealthy. Then he meets a female psychologist who gets into his head and then into his scam. As one can imagine, the whole caper starts to unravel rather bloodily.

There is a lot to unpack here with this movie. It does require some patience because there are moments that drag a bit. The visual effects and the set design is very impressive. The performances are quite good, which is not all that surprising considering the cast. Stanton Carlisle is a complicated anti-hero here. This may be one of those films I may have to watch again to get the subtleties. I ended up not loving this film when I first saw it, but I can see the potential of my mind being changed. It just isn’t a film one can just watch with the same sort of attention given to a Marvel movie or something like that. I do give the films kudos for the visual and technical achievements. It felt a little longer than I expected though. I think it will have its fans out there, and there is likely a lot more to appreciate if the proper attention is given. I would recommend not giving this one a pass. I will also likely soon try to catch the original 1947 version fairly soon. I may even see if I can get the novel.

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